Remember how long you had already put off these things, and how often a certain day and hour as it were, having been set to you by the gods, you had neglected it. It is high time for you to understand the true nature both of the world, where you are a part, and of that Lord and Governor of the world, from whom, as a channel from the spring you yourself did flow, and that there is but a certain limit of time appointed to you. If you do not make use of it to calm and allay the many distempers of your soul, it will pass away and you with it, and will return never afterwards.
Let it be your earnest and incessant care as a Roman and a man to perform whatever it is that you are about. Do it with true and unfeigned gravity, natural affection, freedom, and justice. And as for all other cares and imaginations, how you may ease your mind of them.
You will do this if you go about every action as your last action, free from all vanity, all passionate and willful aberration from reason, and from all hypocrisy, and self-love, and dislike of those things which by the fates or appointment of God have happened to you.
You see that those things, which for a man to hold on in a prosperous course and to live a divine life, are requisite and necessary. They are not many, for the gods will require no more of any man that shall but keep and observe these things.
Do, soul, do; abuse and contemn yourself yet a while, and the time for you to respect yourself will be at an end. Every man's happiness comes from himself, but if you see your life is almost at an end while affording yourself no respect, you will make your happiness consist in the souls and conceits of other men.
Why should any of these things that happen externally distract you so much? Give yourself leisure to learn some good things, and cease roving and wandering to and fro.
You must also take heed of another kind of wandering, for they are idle in their actions who toil and labor in this life who have no certain scope to direct all their motions and desires.
For not observing the state of another man's soul, scarce was ever any man known to be unhappy.
Tell whoever that don't intend, and don't guide, by reason and discretion the motions of their own souls that they must of necessity be unhappy.
These things you must always have in mind: What is the nature of the universe, and what is mine. In particular, what relation does this have to that? What kind of part, of what kind of universe it is? And that there is nobody that can hinder you, but that you may always both do and speak those things which are agreeable to that nature of which you are a part.
Theophrastus, where he compares sin with sin (as after a vulgar sense such things I grant may be compared) says well and like a philosopher, that those sins are greater which are committed through lust, than those which are committed through anger.
For whoever is angry seems with a kind of grief and close contraction of themselves, to turn away from reason. But whoever sins through lust, being overcome by pleasure, does in his very sin a more impotent, and unmanly disposition.
Well then and like a philosopher does he say, that he of the two is the more to be condemned, that sins with pleasure, than he that sins with grief. For indeed this latter may seem first to have been wronged, and so in some manner through grief thereof to have been forced to be angry, whereas he who through lust does commit anything, did of himself merely resolve upon that action.
Whatever you affect, whatever you project, do so, and so project all, as one who (for you should know) may at this very present depart out of this life. And as for death, if there are any gods, it is no grievous thing to leave the society of men. The gods will do you no harm, you may be sure.
But if it is that there are no gods, or that they take no care of the world, why should I desire to live in a world void of gods, and of all divine providence? But there certainly are gods, and they take care of the world. As for those things which are truly evil, as vice and wickedness, such things they have put in a man's own power that he might avoid them if he would. Had there been anything besides that had been truly bad and evil, they would have had a care of that also, that a man might have avoided it.
But why should that be thought to hurt and prejudice a man's life in this world which cannot in any way make man himself better or worse in his own person? Neither must we think that the nature of the universe either through ignorance pass these things, or if not as ignorant of them, yet as unable either to prevent, or better to order and dispose them.
It cannot be that she through want either of power or skill, should have committed such a thing, so as to suffer all things both good and bad, equally and promiscuously, to happen to all both good and bad.
As for life therefore, and death, honor and dishonor, labor and pleasure, riches and poverty, all these things happen to men indeed, both good and bad equally. But as things which of themselves are neither good nor bad, because of themselves, neither shameful nor worthy of praise.
Consider how quickly all things are dissolved and resolved. The bodies and substances themselves, into the matter and substance of the world. Their memories into the general age and time of the world.
Consider the nature of all worldly sensible things; especially those which either ensnare by pleasure, or for their irksomeness are dreadful, or for their outward luster and show are in great esteem and request. How vile and contemptible, how base and corruptible, how destitute of all true life and being they are!
It is the part of a man who is endowed with a good understanding faculty to consider what they themselves are, from whose bare conceits and voices honor and credit proceed. As also what it is to die, and how if a man shall consider this by itself alone, to die, and separate from it in his mind all those things which with it usually represent themselves to us. He can conceive of it no other way than as of a work of nature, and he that fears any work of nature is childish. Now death is not only a work of nature, but also conducing to nature.
Consider with yourself how man, and by what part of him is joined to God, and how that part of man is affected when it is said to be diffused. There is nothing more wretched than that soul which in a kind of circuit compasses all things, searching (as he said) even the very depths of the earth.
And by all signs and conjectures prying into the very thoughts of other men's souls, and yet this is not sensible that it's sufficient for a man to apply himself wholly, and to confine all his thoughts and cares to the tendency of that spirit which is within him, and truly and really to serve him.
His service consists in this, that a man keep himself pure from all violent passion and evil affection, from all rashness and vanity, and from all manner of discontent, either in regard of the gods or men. For indeed whatever proceeds from the gods deserves respect for their worth and excellency. Whatever proceeds from men, as they are our kinsmen, should by us be entertained with love, always.
Sometimes, it is as proceeding from their ignorance of that which is truly good and bad, (a blindness, no less, than that by which we are not able to discern between white and black) with a kind of pity and compassion also.
If you should live three thousand, or as many as ten thousand years, remember that man can not part with his life properly, except for that little part of life in which he now lives, and that which he lives is no other than that which at every instant he parts with. That, then, which is the longest of duration and that which is the shortest both come to one effect.
For although in regard of that which is already past there may be some inequality, yet that time which is now present and in being is equal to all men. And that being it which we part with whenever we die, it manifestly appears that it can be but a moment of time that we then part with.
For as for that which is either past or to come, a man cannot be said properly to part with it. For how should a man part with that which he has not?
These two things therefore you must remember. First, that all things in the world from all eternity, by a perpetual revolution of the same times and things ever continued and renewed, are of one kind and nature. Whether for a hundred or two hundred years only, or for an infinite space of time, a man sees those things which are still the same, it can be no matter of great moment.
And secondly, that that life which any the oldest, or the youngest parts with, is for length and duration the very same, for that only which is present is that which either of them can lose, as being that only which they have. That which he doesn't have no man can truly be said to lose.
Remember that everything is only opinion and conceit, for those things are plain and apparent which were spoken to Monimus the Cynic; and as plain and apparent is the use that may be made of those things, if that which is true and serious in them is received as well as that which is sweet and pleasing.
A man's soul does wrong and disrespects itself first and especially when he lies. It becomes an abscess, as it were; a pimple of the world. It becomes a thing to be grieved and displeased with anything that happens in the world. It is is direct puss from the nature of the universe; part of which, all particular natures of the world are.
Secondly, when she either is averse from any man, or led by contrary desires or affections, tending to his hurt and prejudice; such as are the souls of them that are angry.
Thirdly, when she is overcome by any pleasure or pain.
Fourthly, when she dissembles, and covertly and falsely either does or says anything.
Fifthly, when she either affects or endeavors anything to no certain end, but rashly and without due reasoning and consideration of how consequential or inconsequential it is to the common end.
For even the least things ought not to be done without relation to the end, and the end of the reasonable creatures is to follow and obey him, who is the reason, as it were, and the law of this great city and ancient commonwealth.
The time of a man's life is as a point. The substance of it is ever flowing, the sense obscure. The whole composition of the body is tending to corruption. His soul is restless, fortune is uncertain, and fame doubtful. It is brief. It is as a stream. So are all things belonging to the body.
As a dream, or as a smoke, so are all that belong to the soul. Our life is a warfare, and a mere pilgrimage. Fame after life is no better than oblivion. What is it then that will adhere and follow? Only one thing, philosophy.
Philosophy consists of this, for a man to preserve that spirit which is within him from all manner of insolence and injuries, and above all pains or pleasures; never to do anything either rashly, or untruthfully, or hypocritically. Wholly to depend on himself and his own proper actions. Contentedly embracing all things that happen to him, as coming from Him from whom he himself also came; and above all things, with all meekness and a calm cheerfulness, to expect death as being nothing else but the resolution of those elements of which every creature is composed.
And if the elements themselves suffer nothing by this, their perpetual conversion of one into another, that dissolution, and alteration which is so common to all, why should it be feared by any? Is not this according to nature? But nothing that is according to nature can be evil, while I was at Carnuntzim.
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