The value of attentiveness

Run through the list of those you knew yourself. Those who worked in vain, who failed to do what they should have—what they should have remained fixed on and found satisfaction in. A key point to bear in mind: The value of attentiveness varies in proportion to its object. You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Thought and reason and law

If thought is something we share, then so is reason—what makes us reasoning beings. If so, then the reason that tells us what to do and what not to do is also shared. And if so, we share a common law. And thus, are fellow citizens. And fellow citizens of something. And in that case, our state must be the world. What other entity could all of humanity belong to? And from it—from this state that we share—come thought and reason and law.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Do less

“If you seek tranquility, do less.” Or (more accurately) do what’s essential—what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: To do less, better. Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?”

~ Marcus Aurelius

The span we live is small

Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already, or is impossible to see. The span we live is small—small as the corner of the Earth in which we live it. Small as even the greatest renown, passed from mouth to mouth by short-lived stick figures, ignorant alike of themselves and those long dead.

~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3.10

Learn something worthwhile

Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions. But make sure you guard against the other kind of confusion. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time—even when hard at work.

~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.7

The time assigned to you

Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions have been given you, and you didn’t use them. At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Stop drifting

Stop drifting. You’re not going to re-read your Brief Comments, your Deeds of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the commonplace books you saved for your old age. Sprint for the finish. Write off your hopes, and if your well-being matters to you, be your own savior while you can.

~ Marcus Aurelius from, Meditations 3.14

Normally I would simply let a quote from Aurelius stand on its own. If you’re not familiar with Meditations—Aurelius didn’t choose that title for what he wrote, it was added to his work much later—it was a collection of writings he meant only for himself; this is the emperor of the Roman empire remonstrating himself.

Here’s a second helping of remonstration: Explore. Dream. Discover.

I write this blog for myself. (And no, I’m not laboring under the delusion that I’m creating a work for the ages like Aurelius’s, Meditations.) But I am simply pleased if you, Dear Reader, find my ramblings interesting. I am genuinely delighted if anything I write stimulates your thinking. I am downright ecstatic if any of my questions catalyze your changing the course of your life.

Do you read regularly, and what have you chosen to read with the aim of changing the course of your life?

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How? Patience, honesty, humility

No carelessness in your actions. No confusion in your words. No imprecision in your thoughts. No retreating into your own soul, or trying to escape it. No overactivity. They kill you, cut you with knives, shower you with curses. And that somehow cuts your mind off from clearness, and sanity, and self-control, and justice? A man standing by a spring of clear, sweet water and cursing it. While the fresh water keeps on bubbling up. He can shovel mud into it, or dung, and the stream will carry it away, wash itself clean, remain unstained. To have that. Not a cistern but a perpetual spring. How? By working to win your freedom. hour by hour,. Through patience, honesty, humility.

~ Marcus Aurelius from, Meditations 8,51

It’s really good to be really bad

This is an idea I’ve come across repeatedly during the research I’ve conducted for my various books. There’s something incredibly valuable in the deeply frustrating yet rewarding pursuit of mastering something hard.

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2020/03/29/the-deep-benefits-of-learning-hard-things/

This idea comes up all over the place, and for good reason. Nearly 3,000 years ago, people like Marcus Aurelius where writing things about the absolute necessity of continual self-study and self-improvement. Books such as G Leonard’s, Mastery and countless bits on the Internet about self-improvement. My personal, direct efforts applied to myself—find some idea, reflect on it, then figure out how (if! of course) to apply it to myself… My efforts remain ongoing.

( I need a special character, or something, that I can put before these questions, to make it clear that I mean this entirely in a non-judgemental way– I only intend to spur your thinking… )

What are you up to?

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Complete tranquility

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 tranquility. And by tranquility I mean a kind of harmony.

~ Marcus Aurelius from, Meditations 4,3