A good friend of mine used to keep a blog journal of the more memorable quotes he encountered in books he read and enjoyed. While he was living abroad in Australia, I always found it fascinating to read them, because they gave me brief insights into what he was thinking at the time. The other benefit was they served as snapshots of each book, and served as my litmus test for whether or not I should read it myself. I enjoyed it, so I decided I would start doing that myself.

Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. Detail. Bronze. 160—170s. Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo dei Conservatori.

Cited here are a selection of passages I found most memorable from Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”—a book I recently finished and wrote about here.

Book 2: On the River Gran, Among the Quadi

  • 4. Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave 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.
  • 14.  Even if you’re going to live three thousand more years, or ten times that, remember; you cannot lose another life than the one you’re living now, or live another one than the one you’re losing. The longest amounts to the same as the shortest. The present is the same for everyone; its loss is the same for everyone; and it should be clear that a brief instant is all that is lost. For you can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?

Book 3: In Carnuntum

  • 1. Not just that every day more of our life is used up 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…
  •   5. How to act: … To stand up straight—not straightened.
  • 10. 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 in 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.

Book 4:

  • 7. Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.
  • 8. It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. Otherwise it cannot harm you—inside or out.
  • 47. Suppose that a god announced that your 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.

Book 6:

  • 6. The best revenge is not to act like that.
  • 13. …Pride is a master of deception: when you think you’re occupied in the weightiest business, that’s when he has you in his spell.
  • 29. Disgraceful: for the soul to give up when the body is still going strong.
  • 53. Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.

Book 7:

  • 4. Focus on what is said when you speak and what results from each action. Know what the one aims at, and what the other means.
  • 7. Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier  storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?
  • 12. Straight, not straightened.
  • 71. It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.

Book 8:

  • 40. Stop perceiving the pain you imagine and you’ll remain completely unaffected.
  • 61. To enter other’s minds and let them enter yours.

Book 9:

  • 17. A rock thrown in the air. It loses nothing by coming down, gained nothing by going up.

Book 10:

  • 4. If they’ve made a mistake, correct them gently and show them where they went wrong. If you can’t do that, then the blame lies with you. Or no one.

Book 11:

  • 13. Someone despises me. That’s their problem. Mine: not to do or say anything despicable. Someone hates me. Their problem. Mine: to be patient and cheerful with everyone, including them…

Book 12:

  • 1. Everything you’re trying to reach—by taking the long way round—you could have right now, this moment. If you’d only stop thwarting your attempts. If you’d only let go of the past, entrust the future to Providence, and guide the present toward reverence and justice.
  • 4. It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own. If a god appeared to us—or a wise human being, even—and prohibited us from concealing our thoughts or imagining anything without immediately shouting it out, we wouldn’t make it through a single day. That’s how much we value other people’s opinions—instead of our own.
  • 17. If it’s not right, don’t do it. If it’s not true, don’t say it.

For me, this has become one of those books I would give to a friend without a second thought. How about you? What books have grabbed your attention recently?

Happy Tuesday!



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