Meditations, decoded

BOOK 2

Say this to yourself every morning: “Today, I will meet the busybodies, the ungrateful, the arrogant and the unsocial. It’s not their fault: they do not know about good and evil. I do know. I know that the good is beautiful and the bad is ugly. I know that these churls are just like me, but they cannot harm me. They cannot make me feel ugly, nor can they make me hate them. In truth, we are like fingers on a hand.”

I am nothing but flesh and breath. I must hate my flesh as if I were dying. It is nothing but blood and bones. I am a mind, too; I am an old man and I should no longer be a slave, a puppet on strings. I will no longer be dissatisfied, nor will I shrink from the future.

No person can die more than once. No person can live in the past or in the future. The longest life and the shortest life are, therefore, the same: you cannot lose what you cannot have.

There are only five ways to be hurt:

  1. Do not hate anything; everything that happens is a part of nature. You are a part of nature, too.
  2. Turning away from your fellow man—or worse, turning to him with anger and the intention to harm.
  3. Being overpowered by pleasure or pain.
  4. Telling lies.
  5. Acting purposelessly.

Life is short. Our minds are dull. Our bodies are weak. Fate is unkind. Life is a kind of warfare, and our minds are cloudy. There is only one thing that can guide a man: philosophy. Philosophy can free us from passions and keep us from pain and pleasure. Philosophy teaches us that we cannot change anything, and that everything happens for a reason. For nothing is evil which is according to nature, not even death.

BOOK 3

Everything is beautiful. Cracks in bread, gaping figs, and olives near to rotten are beautiful. A man needs to learn to see the beauty and to feel deeply those things that the universe presents.

A good man thinks honest, pure thoughts. He would not be ashamed to show them to others, as if they were a picnic lunch. A man like this feels no insults and acts rightly. He values only the praise of men like himself.

A man has to stand on his own two feet.

BOOK 4

If you work at what is before you, and if you do what is right, and do it calmly, vigorously, and purely; if you do this while expecting nothing in return and fearing nothing at all, and if you are truthful, then you will be live happily. Nobody can prevent this.

Some men want cottages and vacations at the sea or in the mountains. You do not need to go somewhere to find quiet; you can find quiet within yourself. Tranquility comes from a well ordered mind.

Do not try to change others. What happens happens from necessity. To stop it is to not allow the fig to have juice. Remember this when you feel the urge to change another person: soon you will both be dead and not even your names will be left behind.

Do not suppose that you have been hurt, and the harm will vanish.

The only things that really injure are the things that make a person worse than she was before.

Everything happens for a good reason. If you stop to observe events unfolding, you will see both why they must happen and why they are good. In fact, you can see that the logic of events is goodness‚ and then do what you should and must do.

Many grains of incense are thrown into the fire. One is annihilated before, another after. It makes no difference.

Do what is good and do what is necessary. The people who thought you an ass will think you a god.

Death hangs over you. Be good while you can.

Do not be whirled about. Understand everything.

If it is good for you, sweet universe, it is good for me. Nothing is early or late for you. Nor will it be for me. Your seasons bring fruit. Your seasons bring death. Everything comes from you. Everything will return to you.

Do what is necessary. Do what people require. Doing so makes a man tranquil.

A good woman is satisfied with her portion and satisfied with herself.

Be a pier against which the waves break.

BOOK 5

Say this to yourself when you are tempted to laze in bed: I am rising to do the work of a person. Why should I be angry about that? Was I made for this? Was I made for pleasure, or was I made for action? Look around. Do the plants doze? Do the ants cuddle? Don’t the bees work for one another and to fulfill their part in the universe? Are you unwilling to do the part of human?

It is easy to wipe away troublesome impressions and to be in all tranquility.

I will work for the universe until I fall and rest, breathing out into the world the same breath just given me.

One woman does a favour and wants you to be grateful. Another sees it as a debt to be repaid. The best one, though, does not know what she has done; she is like a vine producing grapes. A horse runs, a dog hunts. They don’t ask to be repaid. Do it; move on.

You are a part of the universe. Therefore, what happens to you happens for you. What happens to you goes on from you.

Stupid men and conceited men are often successful because they do not see or will not admit the obstacles they face. It is a shame that ignorance and conceit are sometimes better than wisdom.

Nothing touches your soul. Your soul judges but does not touch.

Do you hate people who smell bad? Do you detest the ugly, uncool, or weird? Why? What good will it do? They are who they are. Good luck changing them.

BOOK 6

The best way of avenging yourself is not to become like the person who wronged you.

Some things are hurrying into existence. Some things are hurrying out of it. Nothing remains for long. A woman should not love sparrows that fly by and pass out of sight. She should not cling to life either. Give back freely that breath that was freely given to you.

I do my duty. Other things do not bother me because they are out of my control.

It is a shame when the soul gives up before the body does.

He who has seen present things has seen all.

Nobody can stop you from following your reason. Nothing will happen to you that was not planned by nature.

BOOK 7

Stand up, or someone else will make you stand up.

From Plato: A man who is good for anything at all ought not to measure the value of life or death, and should only care about one thing: whether he is doing something just or unjust, doing the work of a good or a bad man.

Another may be more expert in throwing her opponent, but that does not make her a better person. She may not be more social, more modest, or better disciplined. She may not be as kind to her neighbours.

Look within. There is a fountain of good, and it will bubble up forever, if you can just keep digging.

Why do we love Socrates? It was his soul. He was content with being just towards men and pious towards the gods. He never despaired that other men were villains, nor did he allow himself to become a slave. He never found anything strange, and he never found anything unendurable. He never allowed his mind to sympathize with his miserable flesh.

BOOK 8

Remember that as it shameful to be surprised if the fig-tree produces figs, so it is shameful to be surprised that the world moves on.

It is satisfying to do the work a man should do. A man should be kind, despise his senses, think carefully, and study the universe.

Speak the same way to the important and the unimportant.

A woman who fights the nature of the world is like a foot cut off the body. However, there is a beautiful provision: while a foot cannot be reattached, a person can rejoin the body politic.

Do not extrapolate from small facts. Say you hear rumors that your friend has been slighting you behind your back. Maybe she has been. People talk. Maybe she has not been. You simply do not know for sure.

You get a parking ticket. Pay it. Do not get upset with the laws, or angry that you did something wrong—or worse, did nothing wrong. Pay it and move on. The universe still works as it should.

Wickedness does not harm the universe; in particular, it does not harm any other person. Wickedness only harms the wicked.

Suppose you are being insulted. Suppose you are being beaten. So? What is stopping you from keeping your mind pure, wise, sober and just? Imagine throwing mud into a spring. It lingers only a moment and then is carried away. Be simple, free, modest and content, and you will be like the spring.

BOOK 9

Do not labour like a student, always looking over your shoulder as if you deserve pity or admiration for all the work you have to do. Get on with it.

Do not fear change. Was there anything to fear when you became a youth or a man? No. Nor is there anything to fear about the final change into death.

Children’s arguments and games, mansions of the dead, spirits carrying around dead bodies. This is everything.

The universe is a river swollen with the spring thaw. Politics and the common philosophy are idiotic. They are drivel.

Enough of this wretched life, gossip, and stupid gaming. Why not? What is there new in this? Look at it. Besides this there is nothing.

Observe what you need, then do it and accept it. There is little to fear from doing what you must.

BOOK 10

Stop talking about what a good man is. Be a good man.

No matter how good you are, somebody will be happy to hear you are dead.

BOOK 11

To expect bad men not to do wrong is madness.

Socrates used to call the opinion of the many ‘The Boogeyman’ because it is used to frighten children.

When a man kisses his child, said Epictetus, he should whisper to himself, “Tomorrow you may die.”

BOOK 12

Everything you want you can have now. Forget the past, trust in the future, and be pious and good in the present.

If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it.

Man, you have been a citizen of this great universe. What difference does it make to you whether it has been for five years or three? “But I have not finished the five acts, only three of them.”—Yes, but in life, three acts are the whole drama. Depart satisfied, for he your director is satisfied.