What is vice? It is what you have often seen. In every instance of it keep in mind that you have often seen the like before. Search up and down; you will find sameness everywhere. Among the events which fill the history of ancient, middle, and present ages; among the things of which our cities and our households are full to-day, nothing is new, all is familiar and fleeting.
How can the great principles of life become dead if the impressions which correspond to them be not extinguished? These impressions you may still rekindle. I can always form the proper opinion of this or that; and, if so, why am I disturbed? What is external to my mind is of no consequence to it. Learn this, and you stand upright; you can always renew your life. See things again as once you saw them, and your life is made new again.
Your vain concern for shows, for stage plays, for flocks and herds, your little combats, are as bones cast for the contention of puppies, as baits dropped into a fishpond, as the toil of ants and the burdens that they bear, as the scampering of frightened mice, or the antics of puppets jerked by wires. It is then your duty amid all this to stand firm, kindly and not proud, yet to understand that a man’s worth is just the worth of that which he pursues.
In conversation we should give good heed to what is said, and in every enterprise we should attend to what is done. In the latter case, at once look to the end in view, and, in the former, note the meaning intended.
Is my understanding sufficient for this business or not? If it be sufficient, I use it for the work in hand as an instrument given to me by nature. If it be not sufficient, I either give place to one better fitted for the achievement, or, if for some reason this be not a proper course, I do it as best I can, taking the aid of those who, by directing my mind, can accomplish something fit and serviceable for the common good. For all that I do, whether by myself or with the help of others, should be directed solely towards what is fit and useful for the public service.
How many of those who were once so mightily acclaimed are delivered up to oblivion! And how many of those who acclaimed them are dead and gone this many a day!
Be not ashamed of taking assistance. It is laid upon you to do your part, as on a soldier when the wall is stormed. What, then, if you are lame, and cannot scale the battlements alone, but can with another’s help?
Be not troubled about the future. You will come to it, if need be, with the same power to reason, as you use upon your present business.
All things are twined together, in one sacred bond. Scarce is there one thing quite foreign to another. They are all ranged together, and leagued to form the same ordered whole. The Universe, compact of all things, is one; through all things runs one divinity; being is one; and law, which is the reason common to all intelligent creatures; and truth is one as well, that is if there be but one sort of perfection possible to all beings which are of the same nature and partake of the same rational power.
Everything material is soon engulfed in the matter of the whole, and every active cause is swiftly resumed into the Universal reason. The memory of all things is quickly buried in eternity.
In the reasoning being to act according to nature is to act according to reason.
Be upright either by nature or by correction.
In an organic unity bodily members play the same part as reasoning beings among separate existences, since both are fitted for one joint operation. This thought will come home to you the more vividly if you say often to yourself: I am a member of the mighty organism which is made up of reasoning beings. If, instead of a member, you say that you are merely a part, you have not as yet attained to a heartfelt love of mankind. As yet you love not well-doing for its own sake alone, and you still perform your bare duty, with no thought that you are your own benefactor by the deed.
From the world without let what will affect whatever parts are subject to such affection. Let the part which suffers complain, if it will, of the suffering. But I, if I admit not that the hap is evil, remain uninjured. Not to admit it is surely in my power.
Let any one say or do what he pleases, I must be a good man. It is just as gold, or emeralds, or purple might say continually: Let men do or say what they please, I must be an emerald, and retain my lustre.
The soul which rules you vexes not itself. It does not, for example, awake its own fears or arouse its own desires. If another can raise grief or terror in it, let him do so. By its own impressions it will not be led into such emotions.
Let the body take thought, if it can, for itself, lest it suffer anything, and complain when it suffers. The soul, by means of which we experience fear and sorrow, and by means of which, indeed, we receive any impression of these, will admit no suffering. You cannot force it to any such opinion.
The ruling part is, in itself, free from all dependence, unless it makes itself dependent. Similarly, it may be free from all disturbance and obstruction, if it does not disturb and obstruct itself.
To have good fortune is to have a good spirit, or a good mind. What do you here, Imagination? Be gone, I say, even as you came. I have no need for you. You came, you say, after your ancient fashion: I am not angry with you, only, be gone!
Do you dread change? What can come without it? What can be pleasanter or more proper to universal nature? Can you heat your bath unless wood undergoes a change? Can you be fed unless a change is wrought upon your food? Can any useful thing be done without changes? Do you not see, then, that this change also which is working in you is even such as these, and alike necessary to the nature of the Universe?
Through the substance of the Universe, as through a torrent, all bodies are borne. They are all of the same nature, and fellow-workers with the whole, even as our several members are fellow-workers with one another. How many a Chrysippus, how many a Socrates, how many an Epictetus hath the course of ages swallowed up! Let this thought be with you about every man, and upon all occasions.
For this alone I am concerned; that I do nothing that suits not the nature of man, nothing as man’s nature would not have it, nothing that it wishes not yet.
The time is at hand when you shall forget all things, and when all shall forget you.
It is man’s special business to love even those who err; and to this love you attain, if it is borne in upon you that even these sinners are your kin, and that they offend through ignorance and against their will. Remember also that in a little while both you and they must die: remember before all things that they have not harmed you, for they have not made your soul worse than it was before.
Presiding nature from the universal substance, as from wax, now forms a horse, now breaks it up again, making of its matter a tree, afterwards a man, and again something different. Each of these shapes subsists but for a little. Yet there is nothing dreadful for the chest in being taken to pieces, any more than there formerly was in being put together.
A wrathful look is completely against nature. When the countenance is often thus deformed, its beauty dies, in the end is quenched for ever, and cannot be revived again. Seek to comprehend from this very fact that it is against reason. And if the sense of moral evil be gone as well, why should a man wish to remain alive?
In a little space Nature, the supreme and universal ruler, will change all things that you behold; out of their substance she will make other things, and others again out of the substance of these, so that the Universe may be ever new.
Whenever someone offends you, consider straightway how he has erred in his conceptions of good or evil. When you see where his error lies you will pity him, and be neither surprised nor angry. Indeed you yourself perhaps still wrongly count good the same things as he does, or things just like them. Your duty then is to forgive. And, if you cease from these false ideas of good and bad, you will find it the easier to grant indulgence to him who is still mistaken.
Dwell not on what you lack so much as on what you have already. Select the best of what you have, and consider how passionately you would have longed for it had it not been yours. Yet be watchful, lest by this joy in what you have you accustom yourself to value it too highly; so that, if it should fail, you would be distressed.
Retire within yourself. The reasoning power that rules you naturally finds contentment with itself in just dealing, and in the calm which such dealing brings.
Blot out imagination. Check the brutal impulses of the passions. Confine your energies to the present time. Observe clearly all that happens either to yourself or to another. Divide and analyse all objects into cause and matter. Take thought for your last hour. Let another’s sin remain where the guilt lies.
Apply your mind to what is said. Penetrate all happenings and the causes thereof.
Rejoice yourself with simplicity, modesty, and indifference to all things that lie between good and bad. Love mankind, and obey God. All things, says someone, go by law and order. But what if there be naught beyond the atoms? Even if that be so, suffice it to remember that all things, save very few, are swayed by law.
Concerning death: If the Universe be a concourse of atoms, death is a scattering of these; if it be an ordered unity, death is an extinction or a translation to another state.
Concerning pain: Pain which cannot be borne brings us deliverance. Pain that lasts musts needs be bearable. The mind can abstract itself from the body, and the soul takes no hurt. As to the parts which suffer by pain, let them, if they can, make their own protest....