wade k wright

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Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor spanning some 20 years from 161 to 180. He was the last of what became known as the Five Good Emperors, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.

Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’, written while on campaign, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.

The passages below are taken from various of his writings.

“If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgment about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now.”

“A cucumber is bitter. Throw it away. There are briers in the road. Turn aside from them. This is enough. Do not add, ‘And why were such things made in the world?’”

“Soon you’ll be ashes or bones. A mere name at most – and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want in life are empty, stale, trivial.”

“Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust or lose your sense of shame or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill-will or hypocrisy or a desire for things best done behind closed doors.”

“Not to feel exasperated or defeated or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human – however imperfectly – and fully embrace the pursuit you’ve embarked on.”

“Let opinion be taken away, and no man will think himself wronged. If no man shall think himself wronged, then is there no more any such thing as wrong.”

“…As for others whose lives are not so ordered, he reminds himself constantly of the characters they exhibit daily and nightly at home and abroad, and of the sort of society they frequent; and the approval of such men, who do not even stand well in their own eyes has no value for him.”

“Take away your opinion, and there is taken away the complaint […] Take away the complaint […] and the hurt is gone.”

“Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together: your own existence and the things that happen to you.”

“Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good.”

“Do not then consider life a thing of any value. For look at the immensity of time behind thee, and to the time which is before thee, another boundless space. In this infinity then what is the difference between him who lives three days and him who lives three generations?”

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine.”

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