A Few Thoughts from Marcus Aurelius

From the “truer words were never spoken” file, a few wise aphorisms from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:

Yes, keep on degrading yourself, soul. But soon your chance at dignity will be gone. Everyone gets one life. Yours is almost used up, and instead of treating yourself with respect, you have entrusted your own happiness to the souls of others. (II.6)

The best revenge is not to be like that. (VI.6)

Disgraceful: for the soul to give up when the body is still going strong. (VI.29)

Do your best to convince them. But act on your own, if justice requires it. If met with force, then fall back on acceptance and peaceability. Use the setback to practice other virtues.

Remember that our efforts are subject to circumstances; you weren’t aiming to do the impossible.

— Aiming to do what, then?

To try. And you succeeded. What you set out to do is accomplished. (VI.50)

Evil: the same old thing.

No matter what happens, keep this in mind: It’s the same old thing, from one end of the world to the other. It fills the history books, ancient and modern, and the cities, and the houses too. Nothing new at all.

Familiar, transient. (VII.1)

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what’s left and live it properly. (VII.56)

You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they’ll still go on doing it. (VIII.4)

They flatter one another out of contempt, and their desire to rule one another makes them bow and scrape. (XI.14)

Socrates used to call popular beliefs “the monsters under the bed” — only useful for frightening children with. (XI.23)

These quotations are from the translation of Gregory Hays (Modern Library, 2002). An excellent older translation is available as a free audiobook on YouTube, in an excellent reading, here:

Beats the bejeezus out of today’s conservative talk radio — and without anyone begging you to buy gold or worship idols!

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