The Meditations: An Emperor’s Guide to Mastery by Marcus Aurelius is one of the three most famous stoicism books—the other two being The Manual by Epictetus (also known as The Enrichidion) and Letters from a Stoic by Seneca.
What differentiates this one from the other two is that this one was written by the most powerful man of his time; Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of Rome. Another thing that distinguishes it is that it is a collection of notes and lessons written by Marcus to himself, so it’s basically a journal.
There are many translations of this great book; this particular edition is a short and contemporary one made by Sam Torode of Ancient Renewal, which some might not like if they prefer classic translations.
The following summary of The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is meant to be concise, reminding me of high-level concepts and not trying to recreate the whole book. This summary is basically a bunch of notes and lessons paraphrased or quoted directly from the book and does not contain my own thoughts.
• Alexander the Platonist taught me not to complain that I have no free time. Busyness is no excuse for neglecting our duties to family, friends, and community.
• Maximus exemplified self-government, steadiness of purpose, cheerfulness in all circumstances, and working without complaining. Everyone trusted his words as genuine and his intentions as good. He never showed surprise, haste, frustration, anger, or suspicion. He was eager to give and quick to forgive. He also had a wonderful sense of humor, kindhearted rather than caustic.
In Maximus’ presence, no one could feel small or worthless; neither could anyone feel superior.
• Begin each morning by saying to yourself: Today I will meet people who are nosy, ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, and unsocial. They can’t help it—they are ignorant of the difference between good and bad. But I, who know the difference, also know that I share the same human nature with them.
I can’t be angry with my fellow humans. We were made to work together, like pairs of hands, feet, eyelids, or rows of teeth. To hate each other is against the laws of nature.
No one can hurt me but myself, for no one else can make me forsake the good and embrace the bad.
• Don’t die bitterly, regretful of all the things you haven’t yet learned, all the books you haven’t yet read. Die serenely and content, with a heart full of gratitude.
• Don’t worry about what others think. Mind what you think. Watch the movements of your mind, and focus your thoughts on something worthy.
• Sins committed from desire are worse than sins committed from anger. Anger is a temporary lapse from reason, usually in reaction to pain—someone hurts you, so you become angry and strike back. But desire is self-generated and its appetite for pleasure is insatiable.
• Suppose you lived for a thousand years, or ten thousand years; would you have any more life than you have now? When you finally died, would you lose any more life than you’d lose if you died today?
This present moment is all the life we ever have. The longest life and the shortest converge on this same point. No matter how many years stretch behind or in front of us, the present moment remains the same.
The person who lives shortest owns the exact same amount of life as the one who lives longest. For the present is all we have and all we can lose. When we die, we don’t “lose” the past or future—we never owned them.
• Remember the words of Monimus the Cynic: “Everything is opinion.” This principle is not only true but beneficial—if you know how to use it.
• When you do anything insincere, halfhearted, or thoughtless, you harm yourself. Even the smallest action should be performed with a goal in mind.
• Life is a pilgrimage and a struggle. All we have of time is a moment, the universe is in constant flux, our bodies are fragile, our senses grasp so little, our souls are a mist, the future is a fog, and fame is fleeting.
The physical world is an ever-flowing stream, and the spiritual is an elusive vapor. Neither can be grasped and held.
What can guide us? Only one thing: philosophy.
Philosophy consists in keeping your inner spirit free, undisturbed, above pain and pleasure; acting with purpose in line with principle; embracing all that happens as coming from the same Source that gave you life; and accepting death as nothing more than a reconfiguration of the elements and particles that make up all things.
• Life is a voyage. You embark; you sail; and, when you reach the far shore, you get out of the boat. What is your destination? If the gods exist, you step into their divine realm. If there are no gods, you enter a state without thought or feeling, freed from the bonds of pain and pleasure that held you on the ship.
• Don’t waste the rest of your life worrying about what others think and do. Direct your thoughts to a useful end. When you dissipate your mental energy on things you can’t control, you lose the opportunity to accomplish something yourself.
• Cease all useless thoughts. Fretting about others—What is she doing? What is she thinking? What is she planning?—keeps you from exercising your own power. Endeavor to live such that, if someone were suddenly to ask, “What are you thinking about?” you could give a quick and confident reply, saying something simple, clear, and edifying—not something that would make you blush.
• Those who dwell on useful and uplifting thoughts—uncorrupted by pleasure, unharmed by pain, unprovoked by insult, standing up for justice, defending what is right, accepting their lot in life without complaint, and not prying into the minds of others—are the true ministers of the gods, for they’re exercising the spark of divinity within themselves.
They remember that every other person is their brother or sister, and treat them accordingly. They mind their own business, make sure their own actions are virtuous, and trust that whatever life gives them is for their benefit.
Those who live this way disregard both the praise and scorn of those who live otherwise.
• Put your whole heart and mind into your work, laboring not just for yourself but for the common good. Be a person of few words and a few projects, not busy and scattered.
• Stand on your own two feet without needing to be propped up by others. Stay at your post, do your work as best you can, and be ready to go when Fate calls you.
• Don’t imagine that something is good for you if, in pursuing it, you must break a promise, harm anyone else, lose self-respect, act hypocritically, or hide in shame.
Follow the light within—it will not lead you astray.
Those who follow the light within don’t lead tragic lives. They don’t wail, complain, and run from death. What do they care if their days are short or long? They do all things with excellence and efficiency. If Fate calls them, they leave in the same serene manner. They are not mere intelligent animals, but worthy members of a civil society.
• Cast aside all that is extraneous and superfluous, and cling to the few things that really matter.
Remember that you live only in the present moment—a single, indivisible point in time. The past is gone and the future is unknowable. Brief is the moment in which you live; small is the plot of earth beneath your feet.
Do you seek fame, so that you will live on in people’s memories after you’re dead? Remember that their days are short, too—they barely have time to know themselves, much less learn about those who died long ago. And even if they were to live ten thousand years and keep your memory—what good is that to you?
Life is for the living.
• People long to escape life’s struggles and relax in country houses, by the seaside, or in the mountains. But it is within your power to find solace at any time, by retreating into yourself. When your thoughts are orderly and tranquil, there’s no place quieter and more peaceful than your own soul. There, you are free. Take this retreat often to renew yourself. Let your principles be few and fundamental—sufficient to clear your mind and send you back into the world refreshed.
• If so much is transitory and fleeting, what is worth doing? Retreat into your inner sanctuary. Here, away from strain and distraction, you are free to observe the world and your reactions objectively. Nothing touches the soul; it can’t be harmed by anything external. When you are upset, it is your own opinion that upsets you. The universe is constantly in flux. Your experience of life is determined by how you look at it.
• To change your experience, change your opinion. Stop telling yourself that you’re a victim and the pain goes away. What truly hurts you is what makes you a worse person. Don’t say you’ve been harmed if your reason and character are untouched. And no one can muddy your reason and mar your character but yourself.
• Much trouble can be avoided by not worrying about what your neighbor thinks, says, or does. Be concerned only that your own thoughts, words, and actions are just and generous. In the race of life, stay in your own lane and focus on the finish line; don’t gawk at the missteps of others.
• In all times and places, consider how many people were born, made great efforts, and returned to the earth from which they came. Consider how many others whittled their time away on frivolous pursuits and idle distractions. This exercise will help you keep your own activities in perspective. Focus on what’s important. Give great attention to great matters, and little attention to little matters.
• All things pass away into the realm of memory, story, and finally into oblivion. (I’m speaking of those whose lives shine brightly. The majority of people aren’t celebrated in stories and legends—they’re forgotten as soon as they are buried.)
Even if it were possible for you to be remembered eternally, what is remembrance worth to you? Nothing.
What, then, should we strive for in life? Right thoughts, beneficial actions, honest speech, and a cheerful disposition. These things are in harmony with, and flow from, the eternal Source of all.
• Look around you and see that everything that happens is the result of change. The universe loves nothing more than to change things, rearranging their elements to create new things. Everything that exists now is a seed of what is to come. Nothing around you is in its final form.
• In evaluating a person, always look for their ruling principles. What do they pursue? What do they avoid?
Don’t judge others based on outward circumstances and appearances. Difficult circumstances can befall anyone—what is telling is how a person responds to their circumstances. Their body may be maimed, dirtied, and disfigured, while the light of reason burns bright within.
• Life is not disjointed but logical. Everything that happens is the consequence of what came before. Just as creatures in an ecosystem evolve in adaptation to each other, events are not random but arise and intertwine in harmony. When the day brings events that seem strange and unusual, remember: the universe is ruled by reason.
• Be the stone cliff against which the waves constantly break, standing firm against the fury of the sea.
Am I unhappy because of what happened to me? No. I remain happy because, regardless of circumstances, I am free—neither crushed by the present nor afraid of the future. Storms befall everyone, but not everyone can stand firm against them.
Why call this event unfortunate? From another perspective, it may be considered lucky. The only true misfortune is when a person leaves the path of wisdom, ignores reason, and violates the laws of nature.
Will this circumstance prevent you from being just, generous, honest, or prudent? Can it keep you from the free use of your reason? If not, don’t wallow in self-pity, bemoaning your misfortune.
• When it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning, remind yourself: I am rising to resume my life’s work. How can I be unhappy when I have another opportunity to do what I was born to do?
But it’s so comfortable here.
Were you born for this—lying in bed under a warm blanket? Life is meant for action and exertion. Consider the ants, bees, and birds, working to bring order to their corners of the universe. Are you unwilling to do the work of a human being?
But I worked yesterday; today I need to rest.
Rest is for recharging, not for indulgence. Take only what is sufficient for your health and vitality. Too much rest—like too much food or drink—defeats its purpose, weakening the body and dulling the spirit.
• Don’t let yourself be pulled off course by the insults or injuries of others. Let them go their way and you go yours, continuing on the path of reason. This is not selfish or antisocial on your part—far from it. Your individual reason is not opposed to the common good but in harmony with it.
• “People don’t find me a witty conversationalist,” you mope. So what? Focus on improving your character, not worrying about how others perceive you. It’s completely in your power to develop greater sincerity, generosity, persistence, strength, and contentment in all circumstances.
If your speaking skills need work, by all means, work on them. But it’s better to be honest and straightforward than mere witty and clever.
• When one sort of person does a good deed, they mark it down as a favor to be repaid. Another sort of person doesn’t seek a reward, but they take satisfaction in knowing that they’ve acted generously. A third sort of person doesn’t even know what they’ve done; they bear good deeds as a vine bears grapes—naturally, without thinking about it.
Like a horse after running a race, or a bee after making honey, a good person doesn’t stop and look around for applause or rewards. They go on to produce another good deed, as a vine produces more grapes in season.
• Fate prescribes events, but it’s up to you to accept and act upon that prescription. A doctor’s prescription may be distasteful, but you take it in hopes of building health. Accept everything that comes your way, trusting that it’s part of the universe’s grand design, for the greater good of all.
• Don’t be discouraged if you fail to live up to your principles all the time. When you stumble, get up and keep going. Return to philosophy gladly, out of love for wisdom; not with your head hung low, like a servant returning in fear to a harsh master. Philosophy seeks your highest good and asks only that you live according to your nature.
• Fate can’t give you a challenge that nature has not equipped you to bear. No matter what comes your way, you can find an example of someone who has gone through the same experience and stood strong, emerging with their spirit unharmed.
For events and circumstances don’t touch the soul—not in the least. Only the soul shapes the soul, as it responds to the things it encounters.
• Other people may try to impede your actions, but they can’t impede your thoughts and disposition. Using your reason and imagination, you can find a way to turn any impediment to your advantage. When you come upon a stumbling block, use it as a stepping stone.
• In the stream of life, nothing stands still. How quickly things arise, pass by, and disappear.
How foolish it is, then, to puff yourself up with pride or berate yourself with worry. Think of the boundless abyss of the past behind you and the infinite future stretching out ahead. From this perspective, how small are your achievements—and how petty your troubles.
Instead of boasting or moaning, rest content knowing that you are a small part of the universe, and treasure the moment of eternity that you have been given.
• Did someone do me wrong? That’s their problem—they harmed their own character, not mine. I will stay focused on my own thoughts and actions.
• In making decisions, rely on reason and refuse to be swayed by bodily sensations of pain or pleasure.
This isn’t to say that you should repress your feelings. Accept all sensations as part of nature—just remember that pleasure and pain reveal nothing about whether something is ultimately good or bad for you.
• Soon, you will be only ashes and a name—and a name is but a sound, an echo. The things people most value and pursue in this life are all passing away. All their acquiring, pursuing, and quarreling—it’s as pointless as dogs chasing each other.
• Don’t be swayed by how things appear. In the wake of a perceived loss, it’s easy to feel disappointed and discouraged. If your head is hanging low, you’ll miss the opportunities hidden in “misfortune.” But if you remain steady and unbowed, you’ll make your own fortune. For good fortune consists of a good attitude, good thoughts, and good actions.
• As long as you are doing your duty, pay no mind to whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable, well-rested or drowsy, praised or insulted, feeling pleasure or pain.
• What is the best way to avenge a wrong? If you retaliate in kind, returning evil for evil, your attacker succeeds in dragging you down to their level. Instead, take the insult or injury and transform it into a means of becoming a better person. This is the only true vengeance.
• Look past appearances to the core of things. At a lavish banquet, pause and think: “This is the dead body of a fish; this is the dead body of a pig; this fine wine is only fermented grape juice; my purple robe is sheep’s wool stained with the blood of a shellfish,” and so on.
Take the things that are so praised and prized, and strip them of the words by which they are exalted—then see what they really are. In this way, you will not be fooled into treasuring petty things.
• Change and motion continually renew the world. Things are hurrying into existence, and things are hurrying out of it. In the rushing stream of time, how can you attach yourself to some particular thing? It’s like falling in love with a certain sparrow as it flies by—now it’s already gone, never to return.
In breathing, we draw in air for a while, then give it back to the atmosphere. So with living—we draw in life for a while, then give it back to the universe.
• What is worth valuing in life? To be greeted with applause and cheers? This is nothing more than the slapping of hands and flapping of tongues.
When you give up the desire for fame, what remains? To live according to your nature. This is the worthy aim of all occupations, arts, and activities.
The horse master trains his horses to reach their full potential; at the same time, he is developing into his own full potential. The gardener cultivates her vines to reach their fruitful maturity; at the same time, she is growing into her own fruitful maturity.
All things find fulfillment in actualizing their nature. You needn’t seek anything else. If you pin your happiness on anything beyond this, you can’t be free—you will be a slave to that which you desire. When you don’t have the thing you want, you’ll be jealous of those who do; when you do have it, you’ll be suspicious of those who might take it away. At all times, you’ll be plotting to acquire it or to protect it. Your mind will never be at peace.
The way to peace is to be content with yourself, honor the light of reason within, live in harmony with others, and be grateful to the gods for the universe and your role in it.
• Desiring to be remembered and praised by generations after your death—how silly! Why wish for words you’ll never hear from people you’ll never see?
• Suppose, during a wrestling match, your opponent scratches you and slams your head against the mat. After the match, do you act upset and offended? Do you call him a traitor? No, you simply shake hands and walk away.
Apply this to every arena in life. Give it your best effort, respect the competition, and—whatever the outcome—walk away in peace.
• When a nightmare disturbs your sleep, it takes a few moments to return to your senses and realize it was only a dream. The same thing can happen during the day. When something scares you, it is really your beliefs about the thing that are scaring you. Release your beliefs, and the fear dissolves. Worries and troubles are nightmares that we entertain while awake.
• My soul has power over my body and mind—it controls my thoughts and actions. But it can’t control external events or the thoughts and actions of others. Moreover, my soul has power only in the present moment—it can’t change the past or know the future. So, it is indifferent to those things.
Exert your efforts within your sphere of power, and be indifferent to everything else. (By “indifferent,” I don’t mean apathetic, but accepting of all that Fate gives you.)
• Put all of your attention, care, and effort into your own actions. If you chase fame, you’re actually valuing the actions of others (their praise, blame, applause, or insults) above your own, denigrating and diminishing your sphere of power. Respect yourself.
• To the jaundiced, honey tastes bitter. To those bit by rabid animals, water is terrifying. To a child, it’s a great tragedy when a toy ball is lost.
Why am I angry? It must be I’m entertaining an opinion about something, or an interpretation of an event, that is disturbing my peace.
Things themselves don’t have the power to determine our opinions about them. We form opinions. And negative thinking warps our perceptions as much as jaundice or rabies.
• Principles can’t die; they can only be forgotten.
I resolve to remember my principles, to dwell upon them, and to fan my thoughts into a fire that will not be blown out by the winds of circumstance.
My thoughts, opinions, and interpretations are all in my power to choose. Why, then, am I continually entertaining worries and fears?
I will not allow things outside my mind to affect my mind. I will not let external events shake and shatter my inner peace. I will not waste my energy on things outside my control.
I will return to my principles and renew my life.
• If you trip and fall, your hands and knees will feel pain. Let them complain if they wish. But you are not injured unless you choose to view your fall as a terrible, unfair, unfortunate event inflicted upon you. Your opinions and interpretations are up to you.
• Does gold change to lead under pressure? Does an emerald turn from luminous green to dingy brown when it’s insulted?
Of course not. Neither can a virtuous person be sullied by stress or slander.
• Does change make you anxious?
Tell me, what would ever happen without change? How does nature work, except by changing things?
Can you digest food without changing it? Can you build a boat without changing a tree? Can anything useful be done without change?
It’s the nature of the universe—all things must change, including you. Embrace it.
• Love all people, including those who do wrong. They may be acting unintentionally, out of ignorance. Even if they are acting intentionally, they can’t harm you—that is, they can’t make you a worse person than before. Only you can harm yourself, by fanning the flames of hatred and resentment.
When someone wrongs you, identify the mistaken ideas that motivated their behavior. Then, instead of being angry, you’ll pity them.
• Don’t long for things you don’t have; instead, be grateful for the things you do have. Imagine how desirable they would seem if you didn’t already have them.
At the same time, don’t become so attached to your possessions that you would be upset if they were damaged or lost.
• Stop with your idle daydreaming. Focus on the present. Perform the task at hand. Separate reality from your opinions, or how things appear. Don’t carry grievances—leave them in the past where they belong.
• Look at those who strive for fame. It’s as if they’re competing to gather the largest pile of sand; tomorrow, the wind comes and blows it all away.
• Study the past and you will know the future. Political movements rise and fall in cycles, while human nature remains the same.
To experience human life for forty years is the same as to experience it for ten thousand. What more will you see?
• Everywhere and at all times, it is in your power to accept your present circumstances, be kind to those around you, and cultivate true and useful thoughts.
Stick to these ruling principles. Don’t look at how others behave and try to imitate them; look straight to where nature and reason lead you.
Don’t be pulled off course by the desires of your body, either. Reason was made to rule over the body—not the other way around.
• All that you’ve done before, or failed to do, is of no account. The past is dead and gone. Why carry yesterday’s regrets on your back?
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Live now according to your principles.
• Life is more like a wrestling match than a dance. Plant your feet and brace yourself for every sudden, unexpected challenge.
• Most pains are local and limited. Let the injured body part voice its displeasure, but don’t let it dominate your thoughts and become the center of your attention.
• Don’t treat inhumane people the way they treat others, lest you become inhumane.
• You have the power to be free and peaceful of mind, even while the whole world screams against you—yes, even while wild beasts tear your body apart.
For these externals can’t touch the mind. What upsets your mind is your opinion of what’s happening.
Use reason to see through all opinions, including your own.
• How ridiculous to despise others for their faults and failings while indulging and excusing your own.
• When you reach out to help another, once the other receives your help, the act is complete. Don’t seek a third thing—praise or a reward in return.
As a social being, it’s in your nature to help others. And living according to your nature is your purpose in life. That’s why helping others is its own reward.
• Happiness is found nowhere outside of living your philosophy. It’s not found in syllogisms, disputations, lectures, professorships, awards, or anything else.
Happiness is a byproduct of thinking and acting in ways that are just, generous, resolute, purposeful, and free.
• You could be angry until your head explodes, but it wouldn’t change how other people behave.
To cool down, remember: First, all things proceed from nature and fate.
Second, in a short while, the people you’re upset with will be gone—and so will you. Do you wish to spend these days stewing in anger?
Third, focus on your own work—to be a good person, which includes having a good disposition.
• When faced with a choice between following reason or pursuing a questionable pleasure, remember this: If you follow reason, you’ll never regret it in the morning.
• If something undesirable happens outside of your control, who do you blame—the universe or the gods? It’s foolish to blame either.
If there’s anything you can do to help, do it. If not, your anger is pointless. All of your thoughts and acts should be directed to a purpose.
• Everything that comes into being has a purpose, a role, a place in the web of existence. A horse, a tree, a stream, the grass, the sun…
What is your purpose—to enjoy pleasure? See what reason and common sense have to say about that.
Nature doesn’t just create and sustain things; it also directs them to their purpose.
• Stop thinking of everything that ever hurt you, and all that might yet hurt you, in your life. Take troubles as they arise—one at a time.
When you are disturbed, ask—is this pain unbearable and everlasting? Or is it manageable and temporary?
Remember—you can’t hurt in the past or future, only in the present moment. Limit your pain to that moment and it will be bearable.
• Focus your efforts on the needs of the present day. Those who strive for posthumous fame, erecting statues of themselves and such, don’t consider that the people of tomorrow will be exactly like the people of today—mortals.
What does it matter to you if someone a thousand years from now should utter your name, or have an opinion about you?
• However much my boat is tossed about on the seas of life, reason stands firmly and serenely at the helm.
• Is there an obstacle blocking your way? Make it part of your plan and turn it to your advantage.
But what if it kills you? Then you’ll leave this world contentedly, as someone who pursued a worthy goal to the end—not as a coward who gave up and stopped trying.
• See things as they are, and don’t let your imagination blow them out of proportion.
Suppose you hear that someone has spoken poorly of you. Are you hurt by this? It’s only a report about some words. Don’t let your imagination concoct a drama based upon it.
Suppose your child is sick. Do you fall into despair? Limit your thoughts to the illness and how to treat it—don’t let your imagination add anything more.
• This cucumber tastes bitter. Throw it away.
There are thorns in my path. Walk around them.
That is enough. Don’t add, “Why do these things exist? Is the universe out to get me?”
Such thoughts betray an ignorance of nature’s works and ways.
• Others may insult you, injure you—even kill you and cut you to pieces—yet they are powerless to harm your character. Nothing can defile your mind or force you to be unjust, outside of your own will.
A person can stand by a mountain stream and insult it all day long—the stream remains pure. Even if they throw dirt into it, the dirt is quickly dispersed and carried away.
Let your soul be like that stream—flowing freely, simply, and contentedly.
• When others try to hurt you, they hurt themselves. When they cheat or steal from you, they impoverish their own character.
Leave wicked deeds where they happen. Don’t pick them up and carry them forward in the form of resentments.
• Today, I freed myself from trouble. Or rather, I wiped it out—for my trouble was caused by my opinion of things, so I changed the story I was telling myself.
• You have suffered infinite troubles and tragedies in your own imagination. Enough of worrying!
• Whenever you are offended by another’s shameless words or deeds, ask: Is it reasonable to demand a world with no brazen wrongdoers? Will my being upset help bring about utopia?
No. Don’t ask the impossible or get upset with the world as it exists. There are shameless people in the world; there are also hot-tempered, ignorant, and untrustworthy people. If you remember that these categories of people exist, you won’t be surprised and upset when you come across such an individual.
Besides, how have they harmed you? If you look, you’ll find they’ve done nothing to degrade your character or disturb your mind. When you meet a person who’s gone astray, either try to teach them or simply tolerate them.
It’s no wonder that someone has gone astray if they’ve never been taught to follow the right way. If you expect an ignorant person to act like a knowledgeable one, that’s your mistake.
• My soul, will you never be simple, serene, and satisfied? Will you never enjoy a kind, generous, sunny disposition? Will you never be happy with life as it is, desiring nothing more? Will you never stop seeking entertainment and longing for pleasure? Will you never be grateful for all that exists and occurs, knowing everything comes from nature and the gods? Will you never live in harmony with others, without finding fault in them?
• Remember, nature has endowed you with the strength to endure everything that happens by nature’s hand.
• Stop talking about what makes a person good. Be a good person.
• No matter how good a life you lead, you won’t please everyone. Someone will be glad to see you go.
• Remain calm in the face of those who try to hinder or harm you so you can think clearly and find a way forward. If you become angry and hateful, you focus on the obstacle and lose sight of your goal.
• Let your soul be at peace—neither pursuing nor running from anything.
• Suppose someone despises you. That’s their concern, not yours. Your concern is to live in harmony with nature and reason so that your actions won’t be worthy of contempt.
• Remember that who you are is separate from outside events and circumstances, worries about what might happen in the future, your bodily ills and pains, what others do or say, and even what you yourself have done and said in the past.
Freedom consists in detaching from all these things that are not you and letting them be whatever they will be.
• I often wonder how it is that most people value their own lives above others, yet value other’s opinions of them over their own self-opinion.
• Even if you despair of ever mastering a skill, keep practicing. Your left hand is clumsy at most things because you always favor the right. Yet look at how well your left hand controls the horse’s bridle—that’s because it’s the one task at which you’ve given it practice.
• Wield your principles like a wrestler, not a gladiator. A gladiator depends on his sword—when it’s knocked out of his hands, he’s finished. But a wrestler’s only tools are his hands—he needs nothing beyond himself. In other words, internalize your principles so they become part of you.
• How brief the time assigned to our lives, compared to eternity. How minuscule the amount of matter comprising our bodies. How tiny the plot of land we call home, compared to the whole Earth. How meager the portion of universal intelligence we access in our minds.
In light of all this smallness, what should we consider important? Only living according to our nature and accepting all that Fate gives us.
• When an actor is called to leave the stage, it would be ridiculous for him to complain, “But I want three more acts!” That’s up to the playwright, not the actor.
Our task is this: to play our role to the best of our ability, then depart in contentment and gratitude, praying only that the Playwright is pleased with our performance.
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