Diligence, energy, patience

If you do the job in a principiled way, with diligence, energy and patience, if you keep yourself free of distractions, and keep the spirit inside you undamaged, as if you might have to give it back at any moment— If you can embrace this without fear or expectation— can find fulfillment in what you’re doing now, as Nature intended, and in superhuman truthfullness (every word, every utterance)— Then your life will be happy. No one can prevent that.

~ Marcus Aurelius, med 3.12

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Anything at all

It would be wrong for anything to stand between you and attaining goodness—as a rational being and a citizen. Anything at all: the applaus of the crowd, high office, wealth, or self-indulgence. All of them might seem to be compatible with it—for a while. But suddenly they control us and sweep us away.

~ Marcus Aurelius

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Refuge

Keep this refuge in mind: The back roads of you self. 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: Disturbance comes only from within—from our own perceptions. That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist.

~ Marcus Aurelius

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Conflagration

Our inward power, when it obeys nature, reacts to events by accommodating itself to what it faces—to what is possible. It needs no specific material. It pursues its own aims as circumstances allow; it turns obstacles into fuel. As a fire overwhelms what would have quenched a lamp. What’s thrown on top of the conflagration is absorbed, consumed by it—and makes it burn still higher.

~ Marcus Aurelius

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What is it?

What is it—this thing that now forces itself on my notice? What is it made up of? How long was it designed to last? And what qualities do I need to bring to bear on it—tranquillity, courage, honesty, trustworthiness, straightforwardness, independence or what?

~ Marcus Aurelius

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Stand up straight

How to act: Never under compulsion, out of selfishness, without forethought, with misgivings. Don’t gussy up your thoughts. No surplus words or unnecessary actions. Let the spirit in you represent a man, an adult, a citizen, a Roman, a ruler. Taking up his post like a soldier and patiently awaiting his recall from life. Needing no oath or witness. Cheerfulness. Without requiring other people’s help. Or serenity supplied by others. To standup straight—not straightened.

~ Marcus Aurelius, med 3.5

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Thinking

You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious. You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, “What are you thinking about?” you can respond at once (and truthfully) that you are thinking this or thinking that. And it would be obvious at once from your answer that your thoughts were straightforward and considerate ones.

~ Marcus Aurelius

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In the end

Not just that every day more of our life is used up and less and less of it is left, but this too: If we live longer, can we be sure our mind will still be up to understanding the world—to the contemplation that aims at divine and human knowledge? If our mind starts to wander, we’ll still go on breathing, go on eating, imagining things, feeling urges and so on. But getting the most out of ourselves, calculating where our duty lies, analyzing what we hear and see, deciding whether it’s time to call it quits—all the things you need a healthy mind for… all those are gone.

So we need to hurry.

Not just because we move daily closer to death but also because our understanding—our grasp of the world—may be gone before we get there.

~ Marcus Aurelius, Med. 3.1

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