Derek Sivers

Meditations - by Marcus Aurelius - translation by C Scot Hicks and David V Hicks

Meditations - by Marcus Aurelius - translation by C Scot Hicks and David V Hicks

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A true classic, filled with stoic wisdom mostly about being your best rational self, doing good for its own sake, and not letting other people upset you.

my notes

INTRODUCTION: (by translators, not Aurelius)

We need to be reminded more often than informed.

Work intelligently with what is given - not wasting time fantasizing about flawless people and perfect choices.

Marcus never did anything, not even the smallest thing, as if he considered it unimportant. He took a detailed interest in all matters.

Marcus regarded obstacles as opportunities for the exercise of reason.

Guard the mind from false opinions and harmful desires.

If we fail to exercise self-censorship and judgement, then we are the ad-man's dream, and our lives our not our own.

Good life begins in the mind, but one cannot realize the good life cut off from a good society.


BOOK TWO:

Remember how long you have procrastinated, and how consistently you have failed to put to good use your suspended sentence. Your days are numbered. Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun.

Take the time to concentrate your mind in the acquisition of some new and useful knowledge - and stop it from flittering about.

Nothing is more pathetic than feverishly circling the earth and "probing into its depths", to guess what other people are thinking, while all the time failing to realize that one only needs to attend to the inner spirit, and to serve it with unswerving devotion.

Even the slightest act should have some end in mind.


BOOK THREE:

Purge your mind of aimless and idle thoughts. Show the world a simple and kindly man, a good neighbor, indifferent to sensual pleasures and luxuries, untouched by jealousy, envy, and mistrust.

Neither popularity, nor wealth, nor power, nor the pleasures of the flesh should compete in your affection for the good that flows from reason and neighborliness.

If it's to the advantage of your reasonable self, seize hold of it. If it's merely to the advantage of your animal self, admit it and don't pretend it's more than that.

Take no detours from the high road of reason and social responsibility.

Nothing produces greatness of mind like the habit of examining methodically and honestly everything we enounter in this life, and of determining its place in the order of things, its intended use, its value to the whole universe, and its worth to man in his role as citizen.

Pursue the matter at hand along the straight path of reason, advancing with intensity, vigor, and grace, and without being distracted along the way.

Just as surgeons keep their scalpels handy, keep your principles with you at all times, ready to delve into anything.

Stop jumping off the track. (You don't have time to do uncrucial things you've collected for your old age.) Throw off vain hope and sprint to the finish. Come to your own aid while there's still time.


BOOK FOUR:

Never act without purpose and resolve, or without the means to finish the job.

Nowhere is there a vacation home more private and peaceful than in one's own mind.

Take this vacation and charge your spirit, but not beyond what is necessary to send you back to your work free of anxiety and full of vigor and good cheer.

Nothing outside the mind can disturb it. Trouble comes from the mind's opinion of what lies outside it.

Once reason goes to work for you, what more can you need?

To be happy, limit your activities to a few. Do what is necessary and no more. Remove not only unnecessary actions, but also the superfluous ideas that inspire needless acts.

The man who fails to understand what goes on in the world is a fugitive running from the law.

Change is never bad nor good. Judgement about change is not helpful.

How lucky that I am not broken by what has happened. Bad luck borne nobly is good luck.


BOOK FIVE:

Were you born for enjoyment? Look at the plants, ants, spiders and bees, all busy at their work, welding the world. Why should you hesitate to do your part?

If it is good to say or do something, then it is even better to be criticized for having said or done it.

Be like a vine that bears its fruit and asks for nothing more than the pleasure of producing grapes. A dog hunts, a bee makes honey, and one man helps another.

What does not hurt the community cannot hurt the individual. Every time you think you've been wronged, apply this rule: If the community isn't hurt by it, then neither am I. But what if the community is hurt? Then don't be angry with the person who caused the injury. Just help him to see his mistake.


BOOK SIX:

Factual descriptions allow you to see things for what they are. Whenever something makes ambitious claims for itself, lay those claims bare by stripping away all the fancy dress and exposing the naked facts. When you flatter yourself that you are engaged in some worthy enterprise, then you are most easily deceived.

Prove to me that I am mistaken, and I will gladly change. Harm comes from persisting in error and clinging to ignorance.

Think of the virtues and talents of those around you. The sight of these splendid qualities in our friends - keep them always in mind.

The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others. The happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control. But the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.

You always own the option of having no opinion. Things you can't control are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.

Learn to concentrate on what those around you are saying. Enter as deeply as possible into the mind of each speaker.


BOOK SEVEN:

The measure of a man is the worth of the things he cares about.

Those who are affected by outward circumstance will always find something to complain about.

Every moment provides us with opportunities to exercise the virtues of neighborliness and thought. Nothing is new or unmanageable. Everything is familiar and serviceable.

To live each day as if it were your last - without speeding up or slowing down or pretending to be other than what you are - this is perfection of character.

How ridiculous not to avoid wronging others, which I have the power to do, while wishing to avoid being wronged by others whose actions are beyond my control.

When you have done something well and someone else has benefited from it, why do you crave yet a third reward - to be thanked or to be repaid?


BOOK EIGHT:

Refuse to approve ideas that are false or foggy. Direct your energies only to the common good.

Don't go looking for equality in individual cases. Make your comparisons by examining large samples and total outcomes.

No one should ever hear you complaining about palace life. No one - not even your own ears.

No man feels any regret for failing to indulge in a pleasure. Pleasure, therefore, is neither useful nor good.

Be happy if each act you perform contributes to a fulfulling and complete life. No one can prevent you from doing this. What if some outside circumstance stands in my way? Not even that can stop you from acting justly, wisely, and reasonably. By welcoming the obstacle and by calmly adapting your action to it, you will be able to do something else in harmony with your goals.

If you're troubled by something outside yourself, it isn't the thing itself that bothers you, but your opinion of it. You have the power to immediately revoke this opinion.

Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them to be better or put up with them.


BOOK NINE:

Deceit, hypocrisy, luxury, and pride: flee this plague. The corruption of your mind and soul is a plague far more deadly than any pollution.

You're more likely to find a clod of dirt detached from the earth than a man entirely cut off from mankind.

Whether in sickness or in any other circumstance, let no difficulty or hardship cause you to abandon philosophy or to tune it to the gossip of the foolish and uneducated.

When somebody's behavior offends you, find fault instead with yourself for failing to anticipate his offensive behavior. Your ability to reason should have told you that he would misbehave.

Having done a good deed, what more do you want? To be paid? Do the eyes demand payment for seeing, or the feet fees for walking?


BOOK TEN:

The high-minded place reason above fame, death, and the like.

Stop all this theorizing about what a good man should be. Be it!

Either you go on living here at the center of things, or you withdraw from active life and move away, or you die and your work is done. There is no other choice but these.

What is the very best you can say or do with the material you have to work with? Whatever that is, you can say or do it. Make no excuse by claiming that something prevents you.


BOOK ELEVEN:

The rational mind looks at and delves into itself, molds itself to its own liking, and enjoys the fruit it bears. (Unlike the fruits of plants, which are harvested by others.)

The rational mind is honest and modest at the same time as prizing itself above everything else.

Have I acted unselfishly? Then I have benefited. Hold fast to this thought, and keep up the good work.

No situation is better suited for the practice of philosophy than the one you're in now.

A man cuts himself off from others, not realizing that he is cutting himself off from the whole of civilized society.

Frequent separation makes it increasingly difficult for the severed part to rejoin the whole and regain its original vigor. The branch that is grafted on after being broken off belongs to the tree but doesn't share its thoughts.

Stand guard in both respects: be tough-minded in thought and action while being gentle to those who oppose or annoy you.

It is as much a weakness to become harsh as it is to shrink from action and relent out of fear. Both abandon their posts: the one who panics, the other who is estranged from a natural brother and friend.

The soul remains a perfect sphere when it neither pushes out after something nor shrinks back into itself.

How false and beneath contempt is the man who says, "Let me be perfectly frank with you." What is he up to? There is no need to dress up the truth. It will be evident in your words, written on your face, ringing in your voice, flashing from your eyes.

To live an exemplary life, remain indifferent to the things that are themselves indifferent. Nothing can oblige us to form an opinion of it. Things don't force themselves upon us.

No one can be blamed for seeking his own good.

Ask of everything: Where did it come from? Of what is it made? Into what is it changing? What will it be after it has changed?

It isn't what others do that troubles you. You are bothered by your opinions of what they do. Rid yourself of those opinions, and your troubles will go away. Remind yourself that you aren't disgraced by what others do.

Shun temptations of the mind by saying to yourself:
- This is an idle speculation
- This isn't what I really think
- This will lower my estimation of myself

Except in the case of those things they hold in common, most people cannot agree on a definition of what is good. For this reason, it makes sense to aim at the common good, the well-being of society as a whole. He who strives to achieve this aim in life will be consistent in his behavior and therefore one and the same person throughout his life.

You can't master the arts of reading and writing until you've studied them. This applies even more to those who would master the art of living.


BOOK TWELVE:

I marvel at how men love themselves more than others, while at the same time caring more about what others think of them than what they think of themselves.

Be a boxer, not a gladiator, in the way you act on your principles. The gladiator takes up his sword, only to put it down again. But the boxer is never without his fist and has only to clench it.

Only a fool or stranger on this planet will be surprised by anything in his life.

If it's not right, don't do it. If it's not true, don't say it.

Whatever causes you to be upset has always happened and will always happen, and even now is happening everywhere.