The Essential Marcus AureliusTranslated & Introduced by Jacob Needleman & John P. Piazza
Some more New Year's wisdom from Marcus Aurelius.
"It has been said, "If you want to be content, occupy yourself with few things." But it is perhaps better to say "Do what is necessary, and what Reason requires of a creature who is made for society—do whatever it demands." For this brings the contentment which comes from doing things well, and doing only a few things. Since most of what we say and do is entirely unnecessary, if a person could get rid of these, he would have more leisure and be in less of a state of confusion. Therefore we all must remember to ask ourselves: "Is this one of the truly necessary things?" But we must leave aside not only unnecessary activities but even unnecessary thoughts, so that unnecessary activities do not follow from them."
(Book Four, 4.24, p. 32)
"Keep constantly in your mind how many doctors die after a lifetime of wrinkling their brows in thought over the sick; and how many astrologers die after predicting with much ceremony the death of others; and how many philosophers die after exhausting their minds with countless discourses concerning death and immortality; and how many great military men die after killing so many people; and how many tyrants die after exercising their power over the lives of others with an insolent snort, as if they themselves were immortal. And how many entire cities—Helice, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and countless others—have been destroyed. So always keep in mind how short-lived and insignificant human things really are: yesterday a glob of mucous, tomorrow a corpse or a pile of ashes. So pass this brief amount of time in accordance with Nature and dissolve graciously, just as a ripe olive falls to the ground praising both the earth which gave it life and the tree which nourished it."
(Book Four, 4.48, pp. 35-6)
"Every tool, instrument, or vessel is good if it performs well that function for which it was made; and yet, in such cases, the maker is external to it. But for those creatures who are made by Nature, the power that made them is within and remains there. Because of this, you must honor that power all the more and understand that if you conduct yourself and live your life in accordance with Nature's will, then everything will be in accordance with your Intelligence."
(Book 6, 6.44, pp. 53-4)
"Whatever should happen to you, love that alone, for it has been spun for you by the Fates themselves. Could anything be more fitting?"
(Book 7, 7.58, p. 58)
"Turn your attention within, for the fountain of all that is good lies within, and it is always ready to pour forth, if you continually delve in."
(Book 7, 7.59 p. 58)
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