Notes from Meditations: The Annotated Edition by Marcus Aurelius, Robin Waterfield (editor)

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Meditations: The Annotated Edition

Marcus Aurelius, Robin Waterfield (editor)


Time: 2022-02-08 13:43

Marcus was drawn to Stoicism by its austerity (1.6) and by the quality he perceived in those who professed themselves Stoics (1.6–1.9), but an aspect of Stoicism to which he frequently returns, especially when contrasting it with Epicureanism, is the orderliness of its universe.Not only does everything have its place in the hierarchical order of things, but also the whole world has been created by a benign deity and is maintained by the providential care of that deity. Every one of a person’s experiences, therefore, has been specifically designed for that individual alone; the world is thus full of meaning. The Epicureans, by contrast, saw the world as a randomly generated conglomeration of atoms, indivisible lumps of matter; they denied the existence of gods, except as special formations of atoms, which in their view exercised no care for human beings or any other aspect of the world. And they denied that it was natural for human beings to care for others.

Time: 2022-02-08 14:00

The Stoics came up with a pretty good response.48 They claimed that, although everything has antecedent causes, things are not always necessitated by their antecedent causes. A cylindrical roller has the capacity to roll downhill. Someone can push it to start it rolling, but that person has not given it the capacity to roll, which is simply an attribute of what it is to be a cylinder. So, when an impression of some kind impinges on us (either a sense impression or an internally generated thought), it is bound to make a mark, but we do not have to give the impression the kind of assent that leads to action. The sight of a beautiful woman provokes lust in a man who lacks self-control; her beauty is the antecedent cause, but his reaction is still up to him, because it is part of his makeup, not part of the antecedent cause.

Notebook 1

Time: 2022-02-08 23:37

From Sextus: kindness; the example of a household governed by paternal authority; the true meaning of living in accord with nature;20 an unfeigned grace; paying solicitous attention to friends; tolerance of ordinary people and those whose opinions are not guided by philosophical theories; accommodating oneself to everyone (this was a feature which made his conversation more soothing than any flattery and yet at the same time made his companions treat him with the greatest respect); the convincing and methodical explication and systematization of the essential principles of life; never presenting as angry or in the grip of any other passion, but being simultaneously completely impassive and yet highly affectionate;21 praising without making a song and dance about it; and wearing one’s learning lightly.

Notebook 2

Time: 2022-02-09 01:33

Here are things you should always bear in mind: what the nature of the whole is; what my nature is; how my nature is related to the nature of the whole; what kind of part it is of what kind of whole; and that no one is stopping you from being in accord with the nature of which you are a part, in all you ever say or do.

Time: 2022-02-09 01:43

Even if you were to live for three thousand years or ten times as long, remember that the only life anyone loses is this one, the one he’s living, and the only life anyone lives is the one he loses.

Time: 2022-02-09 01:52

A person’s lifetime is a moment, his existence a flowing stream,49 his perception dull,the entire fabric of his body readily subject to decay, his soul an aimless wanderer, his fortune erratic, his fame uncertain. In short: the body is nothing but a river; the soul is dream and delusion; life is war and a sojourn in a strange land; and oblivion is all there is to posthumous fame.

Notebook 4

Time: 2022-02-09 16:58

Never act without purpose; make sure that all your actions conform to the philosophical principles that constitute the art of living.

Time: 2022-02-09 21:20

Will you be diverted by fame? Focus on the speed with which everything and everyone is forgotten, the infinite temporal gulf that stretches before and after a lifetime, the hollowness of applause, the haphazard fickleness of those who appear to speak well of you, and the narrowness of the place where fame is confined. The whole earth is just a speck. How tiny is the little corner of it where you reside? How many people are there here to praise you? What kind of men will they be?

Time: 2022-02-10 01:45

[35] Everything is ephemeral—not just the rememberer but the remembered as well.

Notebook 6

Time: 2022-02-12 00:44

[12] If you had both a stepmother and a mother, you’d do your duty by your stepmother, and yet you’d constantly return to your mother. That’s how you stand today in relation to the imperial court and philosophy. Return, then, at frequent intervals to philosophy and lean on it for rest. With its help, even court business seems tolerable to you, and you become tolerable while attending to it.

Marcus's temperament in a nutshell.

Time: 2022-02-12 00:56

[15] Some things are rushing toward existence, others rushing to have done with existence,and in a certain respect anything that comes into existence is already extinguished.17 The world is continuously being renewed by flux and alteration, just as infinite time is forever being renewed by the uninterrupted flow of time. In this torrent of instability, which of the things that are flying past might one value? It’s as if one were to begin to feel affection for a certain sparrow as it flew past—but it’s already gone from sight. In fact, life itself, the life of every individual, is no different from the vapor that’s given off by blood or a breath drawn from the outside air,18 in the sense that there’s no real difference between our momentary drawing in and releasing of air, and releasing the ability to breathe as a whole—an ability you acquired at birth yesterday or the day before—back to the place from where you first drew it.

Stoics were very similar to Buddhists in this matter. However,they accepted gods and soul wholesale.

Time: 2022-02-12 01:23

[24] Alexander of Macedon and the man who tended his mules were made equal by death,either because they were received back into the same seminal principles of the universe or because they were both equally dispersed into atoms.

Time: 2022-02-12 01:34

Beware of becoming Caesarified, dyed in purple.

Notebook 7

Time: 2022-02-13 19:39

[12] Stand straight, not straightened.

Time: 2022-02-13 19:45

[18] Is change something to fear? But can anything happen without change? Is there anything that’s nearer and dearer to universal nature? What about you personally? Can you take a warm bath unless the firewood undergoes change? Can you be nourished unless your food undergoes change? Can anything else worthwhile take place without change? So don’t you see that the changes that you experience are no different and are similarly necessary to universal nature?

Time: 2022-02-15 21:22

[61] Living is more like wrestling than dancing: one should stand ready for every contingency and avoid being thrown even by unforeseen developments.

Notebook 8

Time: 2022-02-17 08:14

[33] Accept graciously, let go easily.

Notebook 9

Time: 2022-02-17 09:23

[5] Wrongdoing is the outcome not just of action but often of inaction as well.

Notebook 10

Time: 2022-02-17 10:08

[1] My soul, will you ever be good, simple, single, and naked, brighter than the body that encases you?