Quotes from Meditations

From my grandfather Verus: decency and a mild temper.

From what they say and I remember of my natural father: integrity and manliness.

From my mother: piety, generosity, the avoidance of wrongdoing and even the thought of it; also simplicity of living, well clear of the habits of the rich.

From my great-grandfather: not to have attended schools for the public; to have had good teachers at home, and to realize that this is the sort of thing on which one should spend lavishly.

The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.

Do not imagine that, if something is hard for you to achieve, it is therefore impossible for any man: but rather consider anything that is humanly possible and appropriate to lie within your own reach too.

If someone can prove me wrong and show me my mistake in any thought or action, I shall gladly change. I seek the truth, which never harmed anyone: the harm is to persist in one’s own self-deception and ignorance.

Accustom yourself not to be disregarding of what someone else has to say: as fas as possible enter into the mind of the speaker.

Is my mind sufficient for this task, or is it not? If it is, I use it for the task as an instrument given me by the nature of the Whole. If it is not, I either cede the work (if it is otherwise my responsibility) to someone better able to accomplish it, or do is as best I can, calling in aid someone who, in cooperation with my own directing mind, can achieve what is at this particular time the need and benefit of the community. Whatever I do, either by myself or with another, should have this sole focus – the common benefit and harmony.

Whenever you meet someone, ask yourself first this immediate question: “What beliefs does this person hold about the good and bad in life?” Because if he believes this or that about pleasure and pain and their constituents, about same and obscurity, death and life, then I shall not find is surprising or strange if he acts in this or that way, and I shall remember that he has no choice but to act as he does.

Accept humbly: let go easily.

The recurrent cycles of the universe are the same, up and down, from eternity to eternity. And either the mind of the Whole has a specific impulse for each individual case – if so, you should welcome the result – or it had a single original impulse, from which all else follows in consequence: and why should you be anxious about that? The Whole is either a god – then all is well: or if purposeless – some sort of random arrangement of atoms or molecules – you should not be without purpose yourself. In a moment the earth will cover us all. Then the earth too will change, and then further successive changes to infinity. One reflecting on these waves of change and transformation, and the speed of their flow, will hold all mortal things in contempt.

Whenever you are offended at someone’s lack of shame, you should immediately ask yourself: “So is it possible for these to be no shameless people in the world?” It is not possible. Do not then ask for the impossible. This person is just one of the shameless inevitably existing in the world. Have the same thought ready for the rogue, the traitor, every sort of offender. The recognition that this class of people must necessarily exist will immediately make you kinder to them as individuals. Another useful thought of direct application is the particular virtue nature has given us to counter a particular wrong. Gentleness is given as the antidote to cruelty, and other qualities to meet other offences. In general, you can always re-educate one who has lost his way: and anyone who does wrong has missed his proper aim and gone astray. And what harm have you suffered? You will find that none of these who excite your anger has done anything capable of affecting your mind for the worse: and it is only in your mind that damage or harm can be done to you – they have no other existence. Anyway, where is the harm or surprise in the ignorant behaving as the ignorant do? Think about it. Should you not rather blame yourself, for not anticipating that his man would make this error? Your reason gave you the resources to reckon this mistake likely from this man, yet you forgot and are now surprised that the went wrong. Above all, when you complain of disloyalty or ingratitude, turn inwards on yourself. The fault is clearly your own, if you trusted that a man of that character would keep his trust, or if you conferred a favour without making it an end in itself, your very action its own and complete reward. What more do you want, man, from a kind act? Is it not enough that you have done something consonant with your own nature – do you now put a price on it? As if the eye demanded a turn for seeing, or the feet for walking. Just as these were made for a particular purpose, and fulfil their proper nature by acting in accordance with their own constitution, so man was made to do good: and whenever he does something good or otherwise contributory to the common interest, he has done what he was designed for, and inherits his own.

Let no one have the chance to accuse you, with any truth, of not being sincere or a good man: make sure that anyone taking this view of you is a liar. This is wholly up to you – who is there to prevent you being good and sincere? You must just decide to live no longer if you won’t have these qualities. And reason too abandons the man who won’t.

Have I done something for the common good? Then I too have benefited. Have this thought always ready to hand: and no stopping.

No more roundabout discussions of what makes a good man. Be one!

If it is not right, don’t do it: if it is not true, don’t say it.