Sunday

May 31

WHAT is it to bear a fever well? Not to blame either God or man, not to be afflicted at what happens; to expect death in a right and becoming manner, and to do what is to be done. When the physician enters, not to dread what he may say; nor, if he should tell you that you are in a fair way to be too much rejoiced; for what good hath he told you? When you were in health, what good did it do you? Not to be dejected when he tells you that you are very ill; for what is it to be very ill? To be near the separation of soul and body. What harm is there in this, then? If you are not near it now, will you not be near it hereafter? What, will the world be quite overset when you die?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §10.

Saturday

May 30

AS for thy life, consider what it is; a wind; not one constant wind neither, but every moment of an hour let out, and sucked in again. The third, is thy ruling part; and here consider; Thou art an old man; suffer not that excellent part to be brought in subjection, and to become slavish: suffer it not to be drawn up and down with unreasonable and unsociable lusts and motions, as it were with wires and nerves; suffer it not any more, either to repine at anything now present, or to fear and fly anything to come, which the Destiny hath appointed thee.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §16.

Friday

May 29

AS one that tosseth up a ball. And what is a ball the better, if the motion of it be upwards; or the worse if it be downwards; or if it chance to fall upon the ground? So for the bubble; if it continue, what is it the better? And if it dissolve, what is it the worse? And so is it of a candle too. And so must thou reason with thyself, both in matter of fame, and in matter of death. For as for the body itself, (the subject of death) wouldst thou know the vileness of it? Turn it about, that thou mayest behold it the worst sides upwards as well, as in its more ordinary pleasant shape; how doth it look, when it is old and withered? when sick and pained? And as for fame. This life is short. Both he that praiseth, and he that is praised; he that remembers, and he that is remembered, will soon be dust and ashes. Besides, it is but in one corner of this part of the world that thou art praised; and yet in this corner, thou hast not the joint praises of all men; no nor scarce of anyone constantly. And yet the whole earth itself, what is it but as one point, in regard of the whole world?

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book viii. 19.

Thursday

May 28

THEY kill me, they cut my flesh: they persecute my person with curses. What then? May not thy mind for all this continue pure, prudent, temperate, just? As a fountain of sweet and clear water, though she be cursed by some stander by, yet do her springs nevertheless still run as sweet and clear as before ; yea though either dirt or dung be thrown in, yet is it no sooner thrown, than dispersed, and she cleared. She cannot be dyed or, infected by it. What then must I do, that I may have within myself an overflowing fountain, and not a well? Beget thyself by continual pains and endeavours to true liberty with charity, and true simplicity and modesty.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book viii. 50.

Wednesday

May 27

GOD says, "If you wish for good, receive it from yourself." You say. No; but from another. — "Nay; but from yourself." In consequence of this, when a tyrant threatens and sends for me; I say. Against what is your threatening pointed? If he says, “I will chain you"; I answer, It is my hands and feet that you threaten. If he says, “I will cut off your head”; I answer, It is my head that you threaten. If he says, "I will throw you into prison"; I answer. It is the whole of this paltry body that you threaten: and, if he threatens banishment, just the same.

Doth not he threaten you, then ?

If I am persuaded that these things are nothing to me, he doth not; but, if I fear any of them, it is me that he threatens. Whom, after all, is it that I fear? The master of what? Of things in my own power? Of these no one is the master. Of things not in my power? And what are these to me?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §29, ¶1.

Tuesday

May 26

Do you philosophers, then, teach us to despise our kings?

— Far from it. Who among us teaches you to dispute their claim to the things over which they have authority? Take my paltry body, take my property, take my reputation, take those who are about me. If I persuade any to lay claim to these things, let some man truly accuse me.

"Yes, but I wish to control your judgements also."

And who has given you this authority? How can you have the power to overcome another's judgement?

"By bringing fear to bear upon him," he says, "I shall overcome him."

You fail to realize that the judgement overcame itself, it was not overcome by something else; and nothing else can overcome moral purpose, but it overcomes itself. For this reason too the law of God is most good and most just: "Let the better always prevail over the worse." 

Monday

May 25

"BUT the tyrant will chain..." What? Your leg. "But he will cut off..." What? Your neck. What, then, will he neither chain nor cut off? Your moral purpose. This is why the ancients gave us the injunction, "Know thyself."


SUPPOSE that a competitor in the ring has gashed us with his nails and butted us violently with his head, we do not protest or take it amiss or suspect our opponent in future of foul play. Still we do keep an eye on him, not indeed as an enemy, or from suspicion of him, but with good-humoured avoidance. Act much in the same way in all the other parts of life. Let us make many allowances for our fellow-athletes as it were. Avoidance is always possible, as I have said, without suspicion or hatred.