I have taken to reading a few pages of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations every morning as an antidote for all the everything going on (not just, or even foremost, politics). I highly recommend it for peace of mind. Today’s reading struck me, I thought I’d share. (Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor and the most powerful man in the world in his day, and he was writing notes to himself):
People try to get away from it all — to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like.
By going within.
Nowhere you can go is more peaceful — more free of interruptions — than your own soul. Especially if you have other things to rely on. An instant’s recollection and there it is: complete tranquillity. And by tranquillity I mean a kind of harmony.
So keep getting away from it all — like that. Renew yourself. But keep it brief and basic. A quick visit should be enough to ward off all < . . . > and send you back ready to face what awaits you.
What’s there to complain about? People’s misbehavior? But take into consideration: • that rational beings exist for one another; • that doing what’s right sometimes requires patience; • that no one does the wrong thing deliberately; • and the number of people who have feuded and envied and hated and fought and died and been buried.
. . . and keep your mouth shut.
Or are you complaining about the things the world assigns you? But consider the two options: Providence or atoms.
Or is it your reputation that’s bothering you? But look at how soon we’re all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows it all. The emptiness of all those applauding hands.
The people who praise us — how capricious they are, how arbitrary. And the tiny region in which it all takes place. The whole earth a point in space — and most of it uninhabited.
Above all, no strain and no stress. Be straightforward. Look at things like a man, like a human being, like a citizen, like a mortal. And among the things you turn to, these two: i. That things have no hold on the soul. They stand there unmoving, outside it. Disturbance comes only from within — from our own perceptions.
ii. That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist. Think of how many changes you’ve already seen.
The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception.
I particularly recommend (following Ryan Holiday) that you read the Gregory Hays translation.
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