Today is the birthday of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121). Marcus was emperor of Rome from 161 – 180 A.D. Though certainly not a Christian, we can learn from his words. From MEDITATIONS, here’s a sampling …
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.
Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people — unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful. You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind.
You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.
Constant awareness that everything is born from change. The knowledge that there is nothing nature loves more than to alter what exists and make new things like it. All that exists is the seed of will emerge from it. You think the only seeds are the ones that make plants or children? Go deeper.
Nothing that goes on in anyone else’s mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you. Then where is the harm to be found?
Suppose that [God] announced that you were going to die tomorrow, or the day after. Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn’t kick up a fuss about which day it was: what difference could it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small.
The best revenge is not to be like that.
Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.
Care for other human beings. Follow God.
It’s quite possible to be a good man without anyone realizing it. Remember that.
It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. The are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.
Give yourself a gift: the present moment.
It doesn’t matter how good a life you’ve led. There’ll still be people standing around the bed who will welcome the sad event.
Image from the North Carolina Art Museum.