Saturday, 21 June 2008

Wisdom of Ancient Men: Pearls of wisdom from Marcus Aurelius

On the importance of utilizing the present time in life:

"Though thou shouldst be going to live three thousand years, and as many times ten thousand years, still remember that no man loses any other life than this which he now lives, nor lives any other than this which he now loses. The longest and shortest are thus brought to the same. For the present is the same to all, though that which perishes is not thesame; and so that which is lost appears to be a mere moment. For a man cannot lose either the past or the future: for what a man has not, how can any one take this from him? These two things then thou must bear in mind; the one, that all things from eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle, and that it makes no difference whether a man shall see the same things during a hundred years or two hundred, or an infinite time; and the second, that the longest liver and he who will die soonest lose just the same. For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that this is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose a thing if he has it not." (Meditations, Book Two, 167 AD)

On change:
"It is no evil for things to undergo change, and no good for things to subsist in consequence of change."

On time and things that happen in life:
"Time is like a river made up of the events which happen, and a 
violent stream; for as soon as a thing has been seen, it is carried away, and another comes in its place, and this will be carried away too." 

"Everything which happens is as familiar and well known as the rose 
in spring and the fruit in summer; for such is disease, and death, and calumny, and treachery, and whatever else delights fools or vexes them."
(Meditations, Book Four, 167 AD)

On pondering on what one has...
"Think not so much of what thou hast not as of what thou hast: but of the things which thou hast select the best, and then reflect how eagerly they would have been sought, if thou hadst them not. At the same time however take care that thou dost not through being so pleased with them accustom thyself to overvalue them, so as to be disturbed if ever thou shouldst not have them. " (Meditations, Book Six)

Each to his/her own:
"Different things delight different people." (Meditations, Book Eight)

Consider the person's character:
"Dost thou wish to be praised by a man who curses himself thrice every hour? Wouldst thou wish to please a man who does not please himself? Does a man please himself who repents of nearly everything that he does? "  (Meditations, Book Eight)

"If any man has done wrong, the harm is his own. But perhaps he has not done wrong." (Meditations, Book Nine)

A little less conversation, more action please...
"No longer talk at all about the kind of man that a good man ought to be, but be such. " (Meditations, Book Ten)

On false friends:
"How unsound and insincere is he who says, I have determined to deal with thee in a fair way.- What art thou doing, man? There is no occasion to give this notice. It will soon show itself by acts. The voice ought to be plainly written on the forehead. Such as a man's character is, he immediately shows it in his eyes, just as he who is beloved forthwith readseverything in the eyes of lovers. The man who is honest and good ought to be exactly like a man who smells strong, so that the bystander as soon as he comes near him must smell whether he choose or not. But the affectation of simplicity is like a crooked stick. Nothing is more disgraceful than a wolfish friendship (false friendship). Avoid this most of all. The good and simple and benevolent show all these things in the eyes, and there is no mistaking."  (Meditations, Book Eleven)

(Picture:  Bronze gilded statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback, Capitoline Museum, Rome)

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