Study Guide

Meditations

Meditations Summary

The Meditations is basically Marcus's personal journal. It's a record of thoughts that is carefully composed, but it was never intended for a wider audience. Originally, it wasn't organized into the books, chapters, and sections we see today when we open any edition of the work. In fact, it can be hard to locate particular discussions within the Meditations, since they aren't necessarily grouped thematically.

While all the books in the Meditations discuss existence, mortality, virtues, relationships with community and the gods, reason, duty, and death, certain books in the work stand out for their strong thematic concerns. Book 1 is an extended shout-out to the people who shaped Marcus in some way, while Book 3 lays down some of Marcus's foundational ideas, taken from his favorite Stoic philosophers.

Book 6 addresses duty, among other things, and Book 8 represents a time of reflection and regret in Marcus's life, when he realizes he will never be a real philosopher. Book 9 gets pretty theological. In this one, Marcus discusses sin—both against the gods and humanity—and how man must behave in social ways for the good of the universe and himself.

Book 10 has a religious feel to it, with Marcus's sensibility that "all is well and all shall be well for you" revealing his supreme confidence in the benevolence of the gods that order the universe.

By the time we reach Book 12, Marcus is nearing the end of his life, and he's extremely interested in summing up and reiterating for himself his most important principles. He's not sentimental or nostalgic at all here, but he is concerned about being in a good place for death.

Marcus ends with an envoy—a kind of farewell P.S.—that speaks of his readiness to receive his marching orders from the world, confident that the gods are his friends.

  • Book 1

    • Marcus tells us about the virtues and qualities he's observed in the important people in his life.
    • Absolute goodness came from Mom. Great-Grandpa wisely had Marcus avoid a public school education. Marcus's tutor taught him to work hard and have few needs.
    • Marcus observes that it's important to avoid superstitions and people who ply them. It's also important to write essays and to accustom yourself to hard-living (called "Greek training").
    • Rusticus demonstrates the good of being diplomatic and avoiding fancy talk and fancy writing (rhetoric).
    • Rusticus introduces Marcus to the work of Epictetus.
    • Apollonius values indifference to changing fortunes, stability of personal character, and patience.
    • From Sextus (a philosopher whose lectures Marcus attended), Marcus learns the value of a traditional life, of living in accord with nature, of tolerance for all people, and of humility.
    • Marcus learns also from Alexander (of Cotiaeum) to correct lack of knowledge in others gently and with patience.
    • Marcus credits his tutor, Fronto, for showing him to avoid tyranny. Fronto says that the upper class may, in fact, be lacking a heart.
    • Alexander the Platonist taught Marcus not to blow off friends, family, or colleagues, because there's not enough time in the day.
    • Cinna Catulus, a philosopher, believed that friendship should be maintained, even after criticism. He also believed that teachers should be appreciated and children should be loved.
    • Severus, a consul, demonstrated the value of family, truth, and justice.
    • Severus also emphasized the importance of freedom of speech, of equality, and of the citizen. Severus was truthful, generous and optimistic.
    • Marcus notes that Claudius Maximus showed self-control, humor, frankness, forgiveness, and generosity.
    • Marcus rounds out the bromance-fest by addressing the qualities of his adoptive father, Antoninus Pius, and of the gods.
    • Antoninus is quite a guy, and Marcus spends a lot of time tallying up his virtues. He's gentle, he's a good listener, and he's concerned with the common good.
    • As a man of power, Antoninus never required his inferiors to dote on him. Rather, he gave them time off to be with their families or to pursue their own interests.
    • Antoninus was also a good "steward" of the Empire, not squandering its resources.
    • Antoninus was very much in control of himself and kept himself indifferent to the advantages of his position—something very important to Marcus—so that he was unaffected by their loss.
    • We learn that Antoninus was prone to migraines, but that he sprang back from illness immediately. This is due, in part, to his ability to remain unchanged, no matter what life throws at him.
    • Marcus admires the fact that Antoninus rides the middle line, neither indulging nor refraining from enjoyment, never getting too worked up about anything, never getting ambitious.
    • As Marcus moves into his discussion of the gods, the tone becomes one of gratitude rather than admiration.
    • Marcus mentions how lucky he is to have been given a good family and not to have screwed up too badly in his life. Marcus is also grateful for his delayed sexual experience, which he thinks has kept him out of mischief.
    • Marcus is especially glad to have had a father who kept him simple and who taught him to spurn the pomp of the court, which might have overtaken him.
    • Along these lines, Marcus is also super happy not to have been obsessed with rhetoric. As a result, his speech and thinking are neither fancy nor overbearing.
    • Marcus feels that his ability to live the life of reason has kept him in communication with the gods and brings him inspiration. If he ever fails to live the good life, it is his fault, not the gods'.
    • Just to make sure we understand, Marcus tells us that he's grateful for his sexual timidity. He's especially glad that he never indulged with either his male or female slaves.
    • Marcus is grateful to the gods that he has money, so that he can always help someone out of financial distress if he wants to. Money has also allowed him to hire the best tutors for his children.
    • Finally, Marcus is thankful for his lovely, submissive wife, Faustina. He is also thankful for all the help the gods have sent to him through dreams.
  • Book 2

    Written among the Quadi on the River Gran

    • At this time, Marcus is with his troops in Slovakia, trying to defend the northern borders of his empire from the Quadi, a Germanic tribe. He is not amused by this situation.
    • Marcus opens this book by reminding himself that he's going to meet with some pretty unpleasant dudes every day. But he also reminds himself that these people are ignorant of true good—so their nastiness isn't really their fault.
    • Marcus, however, knows better because he has observed good behavior. Also, he recognizes that both the bad and the good are closely related, since they both have the divine in them.
    • Even though good and bad are opposites, then, they must work together as part of a cosmic Whole. It is against rational nature to believe or behave otherwise.
    • Marcus reminds himself that he is made up of several parts: flesh, breath, and directing mind (or reason). The only thing that matters to him, really, is reason.
    • Marcus isn't going to cultivate reason through books, since this is not his strong point. Instead, he moves toward meaningful action, behaving as though each day were the last day of his life.
    • Marcus contemplates the role of the gods in human life. They are essentially providential, he thinks, ordering things for the greater good.
    • Marcus believes providence governs other forces: fortune, nature, fate. For him, each part of nature is part of the greater Whole (cosmos, divinity). Even the movements and changes of each part are ordered by the gods to maintain balance and harmony.
    • Marcus urges himself to be content with his part and to thank the gods for his portion in life.
    • Marcus reminds himself that his time on earth is limited and that he has to spend some time contemplating that. He only has a short time to get his mind right and live properly.
    • Marcus admonishes himself to act like a man and a Roman, and to focus on his present tasks. He believes that has to approach the present as if it is the last moment of his life.
    • Marcus also has to tackle his tasks without thoughts for his own pride or self-love; he has to be totally without prejudices or judgments in order to behave and work properly.
    • How hard can this be? Marcus asks himself. The gods really don't ask much of a human being.
    • Marcus addresses his soul. He tells himself that his life is nearly done, and yet he still remains dependent on others, lacking self-sufficiency.
    • Focus, Marcus. Our hero continues to tell himself to find direction and keep only what is truly important on his radar in the present. He is especially wary of "impulse," which seems to govern the weak.
    • Marcus reminds himself of the importance of empathy: it's crucial to be able to understand what's happening inside other people.
    • Marcus restates his relationship to the greater Whole (he's one part of the universe) and claims personal responsibility for all that he does and says; it's ingrained in his nature to behave this way.
    • Marcus reflects on the sins of anger and lust. Which one is worse?
    • Marcus cites Theophrastus, who believed that lust was worse than anger, since we succumb to lust in pleasure (and therefore it is less "manly"). On the other hand, anger is a knee-jerk reaction to some form of pain and may be excused.
    • To recap: lust is worse, since it is consent to pleasure, and hence it is an inward urging; anger is excusable, since one is injured by an outside party.
    • Marcus once more reminds himself that he could die AT ANY MOMENT. Keep that in mind, okay?
    • But don't fret. Death is nothing to freak out about, says Marcus. If the gods exist, we'll just be able to hang out with them, and they have no intention of hurting us.
    • If the gods don't exist (or if they don't have his best interests at heart), then there's no point in living, anyway.
    • None of that speculation matters, though, says Marcus, because the gods DO exist. As such, they give every person the opportunity to keep him- or herself safe and out of trouble.
    • The general good of humankind is on the agenda for the divine Whole. It directs all things benignly, so that people can keep out of danger or fix things if they screw up.
    • Marcus doesn't deny that good and bad things happen to all kinds of people. If these things are viewed dispassionately, they are neither right nor wrong in themselves. It's how humans view them that makes them seem right or wrong.
    • Marcus thinks about the transience of absolutely everything physical in the world. It's all gonna die. And rot. And dissipate. You get the idea.
    • Moreover, the memory of all who trod the earth will fade very quickly. This reminds Marcus not to set any store by these things—or to worry very much about death. Death is just part of the natural cycle of things, and it's essentially good for the Whole.
    • Marcus ends this contemplation by suggesting that it is not the physical part of man that touches the gods, anyway.
    • Marcus emphasizes the importance of being still and focusing on one's own inner divinity. Don't worry about what the neighbors are thinking, okay?
    • Marcus wants to be able to keep the divine spark in him pristine and not dirty it with the petty concerns of the outside world.
    • We get some further emphasis on the importance of the present. This time, Marcus examines individual mortality: humans lose only the life that they have—no more, no less.
    • Therefore, it doesn't matter if a man dies young or lives on. He can't lose a future he doesn't have, nor can the past be taken from him.
    • Marcus cheers himself by observing that it doesn't matter how long he lives, since life is cyclical. All the same stuff will continue to happen over the years, so he won't be missing anything.
    • If a young man dies, Marcus reiterates, he loses the same thing as an old man would: his present life.
    • Marcus reiterates an idea that Shakespeare will later use in Hamlet: all things are only as you think they are. The mind has an amazing way of shaping the experience of the man.
    • Marcus shows his stoicism in full blossom here by saying that we should never resent anything that happens to us. To do that means to separate ourselves from the Whole, which is super bad. And we don't mean good when we say that.
    • Marcus uses a fantastic image to illustrate his point. He says that resenting your fate means that you think you're an exception to the rules of the Universe, which makes you an excess growth. That's right: grumbling about your fate makes you a TUMOR ON THE UNIVERSE.
    • An individual soul harms itself when it turns away from the Whole. It also causes itself pain when it indulges in pleasure, succumbs to pain, lies, or behaves randomly.
    • In other words, a healthy soul needs to be directed by reason, and it needs to play its individual part in the grand scheme of the Whole.
    • Just in case you missed it before, man is a putrefying pile of nothing. Moreover, everything in the world is slipping away with time. Yeah, you got it: all we are is dust in the wind.
    • Marcus says that even the things of the mind are ephemeral, since they are part of bodily experience. And lasting fame? Forget it.
    • But don't give up yet. Marcus has philosophy on his side, and that is the best thing to safeguard against existential angst.
    • In order for philosophy to do its thing, you've got to keep control over your passions, stay focused on your inner divinity, have integrity, and not be swayed by others.
    • Accepting your lot in life is priority, because in doing that, you show reverence for the Whole, which is the source of your life to begin with.
    • Part of accepting your lot? You guessed it: welcoming death when it comes. Hey, it's nothing but the dissolution of elements, baby—and that's all part of nature.
  • Book 3

    Written in Carnuntum

    • Marcus is preoccupied with death again. Or, rather, he's preoccupied with the length of life.
    • Marcus tells us that living longer doesn't guarantee a continued quality of life. He's especially thinking about dementia—or losing the use of one's reason.
    • Marcus wants to keep tabs on how swiftly time is moving for him. He says life is actually even shorter than we think, since the mind disintegrates before the body does.
    • Therefore, Marcus says, do it now. Whatever "it" may be.
    • Marcus observes the life cycle of things in nature and finds that every part of it—even the unlovely stuff—has its attractions since it is part of a larger Whole.
    • Things that display full maturation and are on the verge of decay—bursting figs, ripe olives hanging next to rotting ones, old men and women—should remind the viewer of the perfection of nature.
    • Marcus displays more indifference to death. He gives examples of great men who died in ironic ways to show that life and death don't really matter.
    • As for death, we're only moving toward a new life with the gods. Or, if the gods aren't real, then we'll be insensible, anyway, and it just won't matter.
    • Marcus reminds himself not to worry about what other people are thinking or doing. Time is short, and he really just needs to concentrate on his own directing mind.
    • Marcus feels he has also got to drop wicked thoughts from his mind. He wants to be able to concentrate wholly on the present and be able to say what is in his mind at the drop of a hat, without embarrassment. If a person could do that, Marcus says, he or she would be cultivating the divine spark within and would reach the heights of humanity. That is, he or she would be free of passions and wholly rational.
    • Such a person is happy with his or her lot in life and totally focused on what he or she should be doing: caring for all people as rational creatures—but not caring about fame or reputation.
    • Marcus defines himself: he's a plain-speaker, a grown man, a ruler of the Roman Empire. He prizes his indifference to life and his independence from the need for praise. He's also proud of his backbone: the emperor knows what the right path is—and how to follow it without help.
    • Marcus throws out a challenge to himself: if you can find a better life than one lived in harmony with your rational mind, then follow it.
    • However, Marcus is pretty sure that a life of reason and self-control can't be equaled. Any other kind of life is inferior and would therefore leave you struggling to get back in touch with your inner god.
    • Sure, pleasure, popularity and wealth are nice—for a little while. But these are scary because they last only a little while, and they can make you dependent on them.
    • Marcus tells himself that he has to choose the better part.
    • Marcus reminds himself that nothing can really be beneficial if it makes you behave badly. So anything that makes you do something shady is never worth it.
    • If Marcus can keep his focus on the "god within" (that is, reason), there will be no drama. He won't even mind if he has to die early, since that is a natural process. All of this can only happen if he doesn't divert from the path of a "rational and social being."
    • Marcus notes that a person who allows him or herself to submit to correction and discipline lives a well-ordered, clean life.
    • When that person dies, there is nothing to regret: he or she has fulfilled his or her role in life and isn't taken by surprise.
    • It's one thing to have a rational mind, but it's quite another (and equally important) thing to cherish your powers of judgment.
    • But judgment is not just about being judgy of outside things; it's also about discerning whether or not your judgment is playing by the rules of rational behavior.
    • If your judgment colors outside those lines, it's time to rethink your perception of things.
    • Marcus tells himself that the good principles in Book 3 are all that is needed for a happy life. It's also important to remember that we only live in the tiny space of the present time.
    • Marcus emphasizes smallness here: life is small, the place in which we live is a cosmic pinpoint, fame is small (as are the men that it attaches to). Because hey, we're all gonna die.
    • Marcus urges himself to strip every idea or object down to its bare naked essentials so that he can see it for what it really is. He doesn't want to cover up reality with rationalizations or mental finery. This will also help Marcus identify the Thing and classify it into its component parts so that he can see how it will "decompose" over time and give him a clear idea of how things will all play out.
    • Marcus believes that this practice will help him to have a first-rate mind, since it will help him see clearly how things truly are—and how they fit into the grand scheme of the universe.
    • This practice will also help Marcus understand how enduring the Thing is—and what is needed to deal with it. In this way, he can determine where the Thing came from: the gods? fate? coincidence? mankind?
    • Marcus makes a statement about how to live a good life: follow the path of reason, stay focused, maintain the purity of your inner spark of divinity—and keep struggling to do all this.
    • Marcus speaks of philosophy as a curative tool—like a surgeon's instruments. This tool helps him to see things for what they are, and it helps him respond to them appropriately.
    • Marcus is especially concerned to recognize the human and the divine and to understand how human action relates to the gods.
    • Marcus gets real with himself: he's just not going to be a scholar, actually reading those books he'd set aside for a rainy day.
    • In this case, he might as well get along with the rest of his life and do what he's meant to do—which is to lead the active life and rule well.
    • Marcus here refers to "they"—and not in flattering terms. When he pulls out the third person plural, Marcus is usually referring to the ignorant people around him.
    • In this case, "they" don't have good powers of discernment, and "they" can't define the important actions of life, because they lack a moral I.Q.
    • Marcus susses out what makes a good person. Everyone (animals included) receives sense impressions. And everyone (even cowards and traitors) has a mind.
    • But a good person accepts his or her fate without complaint and takes care of that "divinity within" by respecting the gods and behaving justly.
    • Marcus is also focused on this way of life, and he pays no attention to detractors. He's looking ahead to the final goal: embracing death as a harmonious part of life.
  • Book 4

    • Marcus explains that our "ruling power" (a.k.a. "directing mind") is highly adaptable—it takes circumstances in stride and turns them into something beneficial.
    • Marcus compares this ability to a fire that consumes whatever it is fed. The brighter the fire, the more hungry it is for fuel. And when it "overcomes" what comes its way, it grows brighter.
    • Marcus reminds himself that all actions should focus on a goal.
    • Marcus rebukes himself for needing to take a vacay now and then. If he were a true philosopher, he would remember that the best retreat is inside yourself.
    • This inner retreat is well stocked with philosophical doctrines, which should give you great comfort.
    • Marcus reminds himself that we are all born for the sake of the rest of humanity. This should make us tolerant and kind toward others. We shouldn't mind the wrongs done to us so much.
    • Marcus advocates withdrawing the powers of the mind from the "bodily spirit" in order to let go of the worldly things that bother you—and he reminds himself to be indifferent to pleasure and pain.
    • Marcus reminds himself not to bother with fame, since every mortal thing dies and is quickly forgotten.
    • Moreover, mortality is on both sides of the spectrum: there's oblivion before life begins and after it ends. We're only around for a minute in the cosmic scheme of things.
    • Everything about humanity is small: the earth a tiny pinprick in the Universe, our homes are little dots on that pinprick, and each person even smaller that that. Why worry about posterity?
    • But Marcus still wants to retreat into the even smaller, private territory of his inner landscape, which puts him out of touch with the rest of the world and helps him master himself.
    • How does this work? Well, inside the mind, stuff can't touch Marcus—and if he refrains from observing and placing a value judgment on the things that happen around him, he will be free.
    • Also, reason tells Marcus that all things are subject to change and dissolution. Why bother engaging with anything that might upset him and just not be there in the morning, anyway?
    • After much deductive reasoning, Marcus comes to the conclusion that all humans are the citizens of one community: the universe. That's a big neighborhood right there.
    • It's from the universe that every governing thing comes, including the "directing mind."
    • According to Marcus, the other parts of his being (earthy, watery, fiery, etc.) come from the elements (earth, water, fire, etc.), but the mind comes from the cosmos.
    • We get another rumination on death: it's part of the nature of every intelligent/rational human being. There's no reason to fear it.
    • Marcus seems to be having trouble with certain people ("such people") who don't share his level of education or his views on life—and this is unpleasant.
    • But Marcus pins the fault on himself for expecting ignorant people to behave in a way that is clearly outside their abilities.
    • Anyway, none of it matters, because all of these people will be dead very soon, Marcus included.
    • Marcus tells himself to let go of value judgments; this way, he won't feel injured by anyone.
    • If something doesn't disturb the inner divinity, no harm can be done to a person. External stuff has no real power to hurt.
    • Marcus challenges himself by saying that everything in the world is just. He urges himself to help authenticate this belief by being a good man in all his actions.
    • Marcus once again advocates stripping things down to their elements to see them as they are. In this case, he wants to assess the wrong someone has done him.
    • Marcus reminds himself that as emperor, he has the responsibility to behave in ways that benefit humanity.
    • Marcus also tells himself that he ought to change his mind, or his stance, if he has been corrected by a reasonable person and it is for the good of the community.
    • Marcus has a dialogue with his soul/mind here: "Why don't you use your reason? You'd be so much happier."
    • Marcus reminds himself that he is just a part to the larger cosmic Whole and that when he dies, he will be dissolved into his elemental bits and returned to the universe for recycling.
    • Marcus uses the analogy of the ash of sacrificial incense falling on the altar to explain his take on early death. Some ash falls first; some ash falls later. What difference does it make?
    • Marcus understands that he can't court popularity; rather, he must hold fast to his commitment to reason. People will come around to his point of view eventually.
    • Marcus urges himself to be the best he can be—right now—because life is short.
    • More advice for the emperor's soul: don't be concerned about your neighbors' actions or words. You only need to worry about yourself and do what is right.
    • Here is another reminder not to be concerned with fame: everybody who worships you will be dead soon. Not only that, but so will all their successors, and with it, their memory of how great you were.
    • Marcus reminds himself to stay free from the need for praise and get on with his work.
    • Marcus says that praise never actually improved the goodness of anyone or anything.
    • Things (or people) who are truly good or beautiful are totally self-sufficient and do not rely on either praise or censure.
    • Marcus lists some things of beauty (emeralds, gold, ivory) and points out that they don't lose their value if they aren't praised.
    • Marcus gets all academic and theological now. He begins by asking how the air can possibly fit all the souls of the dead, if indeed they continue to exist after death.
    • Marcus's answer is simple: the same way that the earth holds the bodies of all the dead that ever existed—i.e. decomposition.
    • Souls don't hang around in the air in one piece forever. They eventually break into their original element (fire) and get recycled back into the Whole.
    • In addition to all those bodies and souls, there is the problem of animal bodies that are eaten. How do they fit in the earth, for instance? Same principle. Breakdown.
    • Marcus tells us that he's figured this out through observation of the "material" (actual substance) and the "causal" (that which activates the material).
    • With these things sussed out, you can figure out the component parts and how they'll be recycled back into the universe.
    • Marcus tells himself to focus. He should do right and keep thoughts on that which is unchanging.
    • Marcus addresses the Universe and professes his absolute trust in the rightness of it. He accepts whatever happens because whatever happens is in accordance with the will of the Whole and of Reason.
    • Moreover, Marcus praises it all because Nature is all good, all the time. There are lots of religious overtones here, including a reference to the "city of Zeus."
    • Marcus refers to Democritus's injunction to "do little" in order to achieve happiness. Marcus thinks rather that people should do what they've got to do for the common good.
    • However, Marcus does agree that we often do many unnecessary things. He tells himself to pare it all down and do just what he thinks is in accordance with reason and addresses the needs of society.
    • Marcus also wants to apply a razor to his thoughts, dwelling only on what is necessary so that he can translate thought into action more efficiently.
    • Marcus reminds himself to be a good man by being content with what the Universe has sent him and what he is capable of doing.
    • This chapter is all about being serene: don't get tense because something bad has happened or a wrong has occurred.
    • Marcus reminds himself that whatever happens has been fated and is therefore totally fine. He needs only to focus on the present and chill out.
    • Marcus presents the current debate about the order of the Universe. Is it deliberately ordered by a governing power, or is it a random collection of atoms with some version of order?
    • Marcus says that the important thing is order: without cosmic order, there can be no order within humans. He feels that this is especially true since all parts of the Whole are connected to each other.
    • Marcus disapproves of bad moral characters—shady, unmanly, stubborn, bestial, stupid, vulgar, people. Who doesn't disapprove?
    • Marcus claims that in order to be in harmony with the universe, a person needs to recognize that "social principle" is crucial. You can't run away from your social duty, or you risk alienating yourself.
    • Marcus deploys his "tumour on the universe" metaphor for such a man again in order to illustrate how far away from his nature man will be if he divides himself from "common nature."
    • Marcus uses religious language to chastise himself for his lack of loyalty to philosophy.
    • Marcus notes that other, "faithful" philosophers lack the basic necessities of life, and yet he—who has everything—can't stick to his principles as he intends.
    • Marcus reminds himself to love philosophy and stay away from extremes: no tyranny and no servitude.
    • Marcus points out that time is cyclical and that there is a sameness in everything that humanity does from one age to the next. And in each age, everyone eventually dies.
    • The same thing is true of entire peoples—they strove for greatness, but they were extinguished completely, anyway.
    • Marcus wants to keep in mind that struggles against one's own nature makes for a person who doesn't feel that his or her lot in life is sufficient.
    • Marcus's antidote is to stay focused on that which is important and not waste time on anything of little importance.
    • Then comes a little semantic discussion. Marcus explains that just as the value of words changes—certain words or phrases become obsolete, for example—so too with people. Even really famous dudes like Scipio and Cato will fade from the memory of civilization. There is no such thing as lasting fame.
    • If this is the case—which, for Marcus, it is—what should he strive for? His answer is always the same: to be truthful, to work for the common good, to accept his lot in life.
    • Marcus tells himself to bend to the will of Clotho.
    • Marcus declares that memory is fleeting.
    • Marcus observes that change is a constant of the universe and that the primary goal is to change one thing into some other thing.
    • Marcus tries to use the concept of a seed to describe the passing on of creation—but then he backs away, since his idea of "seed" is very earthbound.
    • Marcus again warns himself: you're gonna die soon, and you aren't the good person that you want to be yet.
    • Marcus urges himself to observe the rational minds of the wise to learn how to behave.
    • Once again, Marcus tells himself that any wrongdoing he feels from others is really just a result of his own perception of their behavior. Stop judging, he tells himself.
    • In order to keep his mind clear, Marcus will have to divorce it from his body. Even if he's cut open, he tells himself, his inner mind should remain tranquil.
    • If whatever is happening to Marcus can happen to anybody—good or evil—then it is a completely ambivalent force and shouldn't be called evil.
    • Marcus muses on the unity of the universe. He believes it is a single consciousness that takes in everything and makes everything run harmoniously.
    • Marcus quotes Epictetus about the body/soul balance.
    • Marcus declares that change is an indifferent force.
    • Marcus compares creation to a river and time to a stream. The idea is that things are brought in and swept away quickly and continuously.
    • Marcus declares that there is nothing new under the sun. Everything that happens has happened before and will continue happening.
    • Marcus expounds on the idea of "affinity": everything is connected in a rational way, not just through succession.
    • Marcus cites Heraclitus, who says that the death of one element is the generation of another.
    • Marcus remembers, too, that Heraclitus spoke about how humans rebel against Reason and about how we should move and speak with purpose and challenge received knowledge rather than simply accept it.
    • Marcus reminds himself to place no value on a long life. To him, there should be no difference between one more day and ten thousand more years.
    • Marcus highlights the irony and inevitability of death by pointing out paradoxes: doctors who die after spending a lifetime worrying about patients, tyrants who destroy others, etc.
    • Cities pass away as quickly as humans. Marcus again focuses on the brevity of human life by telling himself to recall how many funerals he's been to. (Lots.)
    • The point: life is brief and shouldn't be valued.
    • Also, the little time Marcus has should be spent in harmony with reason—and then he should bow out gracefully and gratefully.
    • Marcus exhorts himself to be steadfast, no matter how hard things get. He coaches himself to turn his frown upside down and see his good luck in the worst of situations.
    • If a bad thing happens to Marcus, it is something that is allowed to happen to any human, and therefore it is totally in harmony with nature. So there's nothing to complain about.
    • There's also no reason to change who Marcus is in adversity. He needs to remain self-controlled and generally good, since it is consonant with human nature. If he does so, he will be able to embrace misfortune as an opportunity to be more fully human. And that, then, is good fortune.
    • We get more on death, this time anecdotal. Marcus compares those who have lived a long life to those who have died early. Did the long-livers gain much? Not really, since both groups of people are all dead now, anyway.
    • Moreover, since human life is just a dot in the vast spectrum of time, there's very little difference between dying early or dying late.
    • Marcus encourages himself to keep on the straight path of reason, since it is the easiest for humans—it keeps him from worrying about what other people think, for one thing.
  • Book 5

    • Marcus tells himself that he's got to get out of bed early and take up his work without resentment—especially since he's doing what he was born to do. After all, if birds do it and bees do it, why should he be grouchy about helping the universe to hum along as it ought to?
    • Apparently, this is not encouragement enough for Marcus, who still doesn't want to get out of bed and get to work.
    • Marcus's brain argues with him, telling him that there are limits to everything—especially things which give him pleasure.
    • Marcus scolds himself for being too willing to exceed his limits in pleasure—but not in good actions.
    • It all comes back to Marcus's nature and purpose in life. If he were really concerned to do what he was born for, he would shun everything else. He's seen other people do it.
    • But it's a struggle for Marcus. At this moment, he's really not ready to give up food, drink and sleep to step up to his civic duties. Perhaps he's being a little harsh on himself.
    • Marcus knows a foolproof way to keep his cool: drive away unpleasant thoughts from his mind.
    • Marcus encourages himself to speak and act justly, as a person of reason would—and not to worry about what other people say about him.
    • Other people are guided by their own impulses and what they think is right (even if they're wrong).
    • Marcus tells himself to stay focused and follow his path, which is in accordance with the universe.
    • Marcus declares his unity with nature and the earth and says that he will continue in harmony with them until he dies.
    • Marcus is feeling down on himself for a lack of intelligence and talent.
    • Marcus suggests to himself that he should show that he has other qualities that people can admire and that are also part of his nature: integrity, kindness, generosity, etc.
    • But Marcus does have to make the effort to display these qualities—and he hasn't.
    • If Marcus could only focus his mind, he could highlight his good traits—and then only be accused of being slow-witted. And if he applied himself, he might be able to fix that, too.
    • Marcus talks about three kinds of people who do kind things for others: 1) those who think about what's now owed to them; 2) those who think that the helped person now in their debt; 3) those who completely forget that they've done a good deed.
    • Marcus compares #3 to a grape vine: it produces good fruit, and that is both its purpose and its reward.
    • Marcus lists creatures that likewise fulfill their purpose without expecting reward: bees, racehorses, hunting dogs. He thinks that he should be just like those critters.
    • There's one objection that Marcus can imagine. Shouldn't we make people aware of their social duties by calling attention to our own good deeds?
    • Marcus responds by saying that this kind of logic belongs to the guys in categories 1 and 2—they only want a reasonable excuse to show off or benefit.
    • Marcus gives an example of the perfect prayer, which is simple and open-hearted.
    • Marcus thinks of affliction or hardship as a kind of "prescription" from the Universe.
    • Instead of a recipe or directions for bringing on health, the Universe prescribes these things to bring on a person's fate.
    • There is a "fitness" in such catastrophes, as they come together in related ways in a person's life.
    • Marcus is interested in harmony here: in the Universe, in all material bodies (parts) that make up the Whole. In this great unity, Destiny is the great driver, bringing everyone's fates together.
    • Marcus says that everyone understands the power of destiny because they recognize when Fate has a hand in a person's life. In that case, we should welcome these "prescriptions" from the universe as part of the greater, unified pattern of things.
    • So Marcus urges himself to embrace whatever happens to him—even if it is horrible—because it contributes to the continued working of the universe and Zeus's pleasure.
    • Marcus becomes quite devout here, saying that Zeus would never let terrible things happen if they weren't for the good of the Whole.
    • Marcus continues to reason with himself to accept his fate. Whatever happens, it is a destiny custom made for him. It's also for the good of all, maintaining the balance of the universe.
    • Without this great continuity, the perfection of the Whole is marred. Marcus can't put anything out of sync with this unity without causing great damage. This includes complaining.
    • Marcus gives himself another pep talk: don't be discouraged if you fail to act on all your principles. Try, try again.
    • Marcus also tells himself to man up whenever he makes a mistake and not think of his philosophy as a schoolboy thinks of a tutor. Rather, he should think of his philosophy as a patient thinks of medicine.
    • Philosophy is the thing that will get Marcus back in harmony with his nature—not some unnatural practice that should be hard and unpleasant.
    • Marcus refers to Plato here when he talks about "realities wrapped in a veil." Even philosophers have a hard time distinguishing what's what in this confusing world.
    • It's not a good thing to rely on sense perception to guide us. Marcus urges himself to perceive all things—including people—for what they really are.
    • And what are they? Nothing very great. Marcus calls out the things of this world, describing them as "shoddy." He also calls them some other not very nice names.
    • (This leads Marcus to conclude that nothing on earth is worth it. It helps him feel better about death, which will help him get away from all these transient things.)
    • Marcus finds comfort in the idea that the Whole will only allow things to happen to him that are necessary. He also finds comfort in the fact that he can act in a way that the gods will approve of.
    • Marcus asks himself what he's doing with his life. To be more precise, he asks what he's doing with his soul.
    • Marcus urges himself to continue to ask this question and subject himself to a mental inventory on a regular basis in order to make sure he really knows what kind of person he's becoming inside.
    • Marcus contemplates what true goods are. In his mind, they are qualities like wisdom and generosity. He knows that most people would think of "goods" as something different.
    • Marcus handles a popular saying that defines goods and grapples with it. He urges himself to value the goods that don't clutter life but instead furnish the soul.
    • Marcus contemplates his being and states that he is made of up of the "causal and the material." He has no need to fear dissolution, because he knows his parts will revert to their original state. Once all of him is dispersed, it will be recycled and reused by the Universe.
    • Marcus understands that this same cycle brought him and his parents into being, so it's all good.
    • Marcus asserts that reason and reasoning plow their own right path from the beginning. You can't go astray if you follow this path; a person acts properly if he or she is following reason.
    • Marcus somewhat obscurely reminds himself that he shouldn't worry about anything that doesn't pertain to the nature of a man. It's not his lot to occupy himself with it. If he were meant to worry about it, then it would be part of his nature. But since it isn't, he doesn't have to.
    • Marcus gets a bit more specific by speaking of "goods." A man who shows that he is free of the need for them is to be praised; therefore, they are not man's portion. Don't worry about 'em.
    • Marcus trots out what might be his best image in this section: "souls are dyed by thoughts." He means that whatever is most often in your mind will change the character of your soul.
    • Marcus tells himself to keep positive thoughts in his head. They will encourage him to live a good life, even though he is the emperor.
    • Marcus also reminds himself that each human is a social creature, made for the benefit of the community. He points out that each person's life is directed by the Whole, and it ends where it should, for the good of society.
    • Marcus speaks of the scala naturae, in which each walk of life is graded in quality to every other. The rational being comes out on top, as does community over the individual.
    • Marcus says: don't chase the impossible. That's madness.
    • Marcus also says that it's also impossible for bad men not to be bad. He must have been having a bad emperor day.
    • Marcus lays down a cliché: no man is given more than he can endure. He tells himself that other people suffer the same fate as he, but they take it better than he does.
    • Marcus acknowledges that it's hard for humans to accept that the universe only gives what the nature of a human can handle—but he says it's only because humans are too stupid to recognize what is going on.
    • Marcus describes the soul as a closed system: nothing outside it can touch it. Rather, the soul makes determinations about the things around it, and it has its own motion.
    • Marcus gets imperial now, using the royal "we" (or "us") and speaking of humankind as though it were another external thing that shouldn't concern him.
    • Though he acknowledges that humans are kin to him, they are also thorns in his side since they keep him from doing what he considers his work.
    • But since Marcus can think of humans as nothing more than animals or things, he's able to get around these stumbling blocks. He's incredibly flexible like that.
    • This is what the mind does, Marcus claims: it works hard to turn a difficulty into an asset.
    • Marcus tells himself that the power in the universe has replicated itself in him and should be respected. These twin powers (cosmic and individual) rule all else.
    • Marcus uses his city analogy again: if it doesn't hurt the city, the citizens can't be hurt. It's all about perception. If he imagines that he's been wronged, and yet the community is still fine, then he needs to rethink his anger. But even if the community is hurt, he still needs to point out to the wrongdoer the gravity and nature of the sin—but without anger.
    • Marcus muses on the transience of human life and the things around him. Everything is quickly swept away by the tides of time.
    • Marcus also urges himself to think about the vast expanses of time that bracket his life and to understand that the desire for fame or the need to fuss about life is just plain stupid.
    • Marcus reminds himself that he is but the tiniest speck in the smallest moment of time on this earth. His part in history is negligible.
    • Marcus says that he gets to mind his own business when another person does wrong. He has his own nature and reason to tend to, his own path. Let the other guy deal with his own stuff.
    • Marcus emphasizes the need to keep his reason free from concerns of the world—either pleasure or pain—so that it can remain free.
    • If something happens that reaches the mind, Marcus must refrain from adding a value judgment to it, because that will cause him to lose his independence of thought.
    • Marcus defines what it means to live a life in communion with the gods. He respects the divinity within (reason) and is content with his lot in life.
    • Marcus tackles a daily dilemma that even modern folk will appreciate: dealing with that guy with B. O. and bad breath. What to do?
    • Marcus gets straight to the heart of the matter. The guy just stinks. That's the way it is. But Marcus himself should be a rational fellow: he should just tell the guy straight up and see if he's clever enough to remedy it. In that way, he doesn't have to feel anger at his stinky neighbor. Problem solved.
    • Marcus talks about quality of life here. If he can't live on earth the way he hopes to live in the hereafter, why not just leave right now? There's no need for such drastic measures, however, as long as he remains independent and rational.
    • Marcus reflects on the social nature of the Universe: the Whole has clearly made the rest of creation for its own sake and so on down the scala naturae. There is harmony in this hierarchy, to the benefit of the Whole.
    • Marcus asks himself to evaluate his relationships with those around him, including his wife, children and friends. Has he been just to them?
    • Marcus also reminds himself that he has lived his life well and has very often stuck to his philosophical principles.
    • Marcus wants to know why ignorant people can get the better of the wise. He tries to remind himself what a wise person is: one who understands the cause and end of things and conforms to Reason, which orders the Universe.
    • Marcus is in a black mood now, harping on the transience of life: it's short and empty. The "goods" of life are puny and rotten.
    • Marcus is also lamenting the exodus of virtue to higher ground (you know, Olympus). So what's a virtuous man to do? Nothing but wait for death and try to cling to his principles.
    • Contrary to some of his earlier comments, Marcus says that he's not in control of anything—not even his body or breath.
    • Marcus is feeling more optimistic now, acknowledging success if he follows the path of reason. He claims that both gods and men have similar abilities in this: external stuff can't really stop them, and they find good in just action.
    • Marcus questions why he lets things bother him, especially if they don't harm the community and if he has not acted unjustly.
    • Marcus reveals a kingly concern here: he wants not to be swept up in other people's grief. It's his duty to help whoever suffers—even if it is over something stupid—but he can't imagine that these people are actually damaged by what has happened.
    • Marcus has to remember that the things of this world are mere toys, and that perspective has to be maintained. A man shouldn't indulge in extremes of emotion—even less so an emperor.
    • Marcus begins with something that looks like a lament for his loss of good fortune.
    • But Marcus turns that frown upside down and tells himself that good luck is something he creates for himself. He also says that it flows from a well-intentioned soul.
  • Book 6

    • Marcus reiterates the benign nature of the Whole: the overseeing Reason creates everything for a purpose and for the harmonious maintenance of the universe.
    • Since everything created by the Whole is essentially right and harmless, it's a comfort to know also that everything has its origin and its ending in the Whole as well.
    • Marcus reminds himself only to do his duty and not to worry about how he's feeling or what other people are saying about him. Even death should not sway him.
    • In fact, by dying, Marcus believes that he will be doing the most dutiful thing ever, since it is an obligation of nature.
    • Marcus tells himself to be attentive to things that should be valued.
    • Marcus would have been a David Bowie fan, because he's on about changes again. In this case, everything in the universe will either be dispersed in some way or other—it can't remain.
    • The Whole knows what it's about. Marcus implies here that even if humanity doesn't understand what the Universe is up to, the Universe itself clearly understands its materials and purpose.
    • The emperor finally gets to talking about revenge. He claims that the best way to go about it is not to turn into your enemy.
    • According to Marcus, happiness is doing social acts continuously and being mindful of god.
    • Marcus defines the "direction mind": this kind of mind is always looking to comply with its nature and sets about to shape experience to suit itself.
    • The Whole rules everything; nothing can do or be anything outside of the Whole.
    • Marcus discusses the prominent views about the nature of the universe: it's either a random "stew" of atoms and mere dissolution at the end, or it's a purposeful and well-ordered structure.
    • The first does not appeal to Marcus. Why even bother if accident is all there is?
    • Marcus doesn't know exactly which order rules the universe. But if it's the second choice (providence and unity), he's all for it, as this gives him something to live for.
    • Marcus tells himself that swift recovery from distress is crucial. Practice returning to the normal rhythm of life makes it more likely that he won't fall out of it too often.
    • Marcus compares the court to a stepmother and philosophy to a mother. He claims that a son who has both would naturally return to his mother for comfort and advice.
    • The same has to be true of philosophy for Marcus. She's the mother in this scenario, and she can provide him with the comfort he seeks; she will make court life livable.
    • Marcus has a penchant for reality checks. In this case, he reminds himself that his roasted meats are really just dead bodies. His wine, no matter how fine, is just grapes. His fine clothes are made from dirty sheep fluff and dyed with the blood of shellfish.
    • We won't exactly recount what he says about sex here, but you can imagine: it's no big deal.
    • Marcus engages in these mental exercises so that he doesn't attach more importance to things than they actually have. He strips things bare to understand what they are. It also cuts down on vanity if you can manage to put your work and your thoughts to the same reality test. What are you actually doing and thinking?
    • Marcus is constantly finding ways to stratify or categorize people. Here, he declares that people can be defined by what they value.
    • Most value the usual commodities: saleable natural resources and fine foodstuffs.
    • Next up on the ladder of stratification are those who value livestock (um, including slaves).
    • And then there are those who begin to focus on how the rational soul displays itself in human skill (craftsmen, etc.).
    • But the very cream of the crop (like Marcus himself) focus only on their reason and on performing "social acts."
    • More changes. There is a constant flux of those coming into this world and those going out. It's a process of constant renewal.
    • Of course, Marcus mentions this to point out that there is no reason to value the things of this world, since they come and go so swiftly.
    • In the cosmic scheme of things, individual life is no more important or lasting than a single breath.
    • Marcus wants to redirect our attention away from useless actions (like breathing or perceiving) to something more valuable.
    • But what? Certainly not praise. To Marcus, the important thing is following the path of our nature, as directed by the universe.
    • Marcus sees the working of a craftsman as a good example, since craftsmen make things suited to a certain purpose.
    • Marcus says that the only thing to be valued is doing what you were sent into the world to do, in other words to follow your purpose.
    • If he persists in valuing those other things, Marcus will wind up being a discontented man, reliant on external things. He must value his mind and his lot in life, and if he does, all will be well.
    • The elements are changeable, wild things, but social action drives a person down a more pleasant path, though harder to discern.
    • Marcus is speaking of "them" again—the mass of people around him. These are the people who are gossip-mongers, speaking badly of others yet concerned about their own reputations. Marcus feels that their actions are futile.
    • Marcus puts himself in his place by reminding himself that things that are hard to do are not impossible. They are just hard for him, though not out of reach.
    • Marcus sees life as a "field of play" in which we learn to recognize that our opponents—even though they scratch and push—are not actually our nemeses.
    • The same is true in life off the field. People who are against Marcus are merely opponents in a game; they are not people he should passionately hate.
    • Marcus claims that he will gladly change any of his ways if someone can show him that he's wrong. He's all about the truth. Besides, it's worse to continue in error than to change.
    • Marcus says that he minds his own beeswax and does what he knows he has to do. Everything and everyone else are just distractions.
    • Marcus reminds himself to stay above it all, because he has reason. He must treat animals and things with "decency," and men with tolerance.
    • Marcus extends his morbid bent to this work, too: even if he only practices these good principles for three hours before he dies, it's time well spent.
    • Marcus muses on death as the great equalizer: Alexander the Great and the man in charge of his mules were made the same by death. Their atoms were dispersed in the same way throughout the universe.
    • Marcus reflects on how many different things are going on inside the bodies and minds of people at the same moment. He uses this example to extrapolate a truth about the harmony of the universe: everything that happens exists together in the Whole.
    • Marcus talks about being asked how to spell "Antoninus" and how he should respond. He could lose his temper and behave badly. Or he could respond like a rational man and just spell the darn name.
    • Marcus reflects on the nature of duty: it's a completed action—and you have to get through each step calmly until you've reached the end.
    • Marcus chides himself for not letting the people around him do things to their own advantage; he calls them out for being wrong. He reasons with himself that he only does this because these people are ignorant. Then his better side tells him that he must correct and teach them gently—not nag.
    • Marcus speaks of death as a welcome release not only from unpleasant things, but also from the maintenance of the body and an active mind.
    • Marcus finds it shameful if a man's soul should give out before his body does.
    • Marcus warns himself not to get all fancy ("Caesarified"). He wants to keep it simple and keep himself pure, as philosophy has taught him. To do this, he's got to keep his mind on the gods and be good to people.
    • Marcus remembers the lessons taught to him by his adoptive father, Antoninus Pius.
    • Antoninus had many good qualities: he was gentle, simple, earnest, concerned, tolerant. He was never a gossip, he was slow to anger, and he was not judgmental. He was also frugal and not dependent on luxuries.
    • Antoninus was so dedicated to his work that he wouldn't even get up to pee during the day. He didn't mind criticism, and he delighted in being corrected.
    • Marcus mentions all this to remind himself how to be—and to say that he wants to have such a conscience on his deathbed.
    • Marcus tells himself to snap out of it (whatever it is). He's acting like he's asleep, having bad dreams.
    • Marcus wants to treat his current crises as though they are nothing but nightmares, to see them more clearly in the daylight.
    • Marcus contemplates his make up: body (indifferent to everything, since it has no reason) and soul/mind (indifferent to everything that doesn't pertain to it).
    • For the mind, only the present matters. The actions of past and future mean nothing to it.
    • Marcus tells himself that pain is not contrary to human nature any more than the pain of labor is against a hand or foot. If it's part of the nature of the thing, it's all good.
    • Pleasure is not for Marcus. Some really bad types of people are really into pleasure.
    • Marcus notes how experts in their professional fields only defer to laymen on certain points but follow their own knowledge in the execution of their work. Why then would a rational man not follow his own "directing mind" for his own benefit?
    • Marcus reminds himself that even the largest geographical features on the earth are puny compared to the rest of the universe.
    • The same is true of the present. Our moment in the world is a drop in the bucket compared to all the time of the past and all the time of the coming future.
    • Marcus says that everything comes from the universal Whole—even the bad stuff. It's just a byproduct of all that is good and lovely.
    • So, in essence, we shouldn't hate the awful stuff; we should contemplate its origin with wonder.
    • We get some more on the sameness of everything. If you've seen anything in your lifetime, you've seen everything that ever was or will be.
    • Marcus encourages himself to see the connection between all things in the universe. This way, he will understand better the "affinity" of one thing for the other, as well as the way things follow in sequence because of this.
    • Marcus tells himself to be content with his place in the world and reminds himself to love the ones he's with—but to make sure the love is real.
    • Marcus tells himself that even tools made by a craftsman (an external force) are used for their intended purposes. How much more, then, should a human, who has the Whole—which is creator—inside of him want to conform to his purpose?
    • Nothing can be outside the Whole.
    • Marcus once again tells himself that things are not good or bad in and of themselves: only thinking makes things good or bad.
    • As such, the power of judgment is not in the hands of the gods—they can't be blamed when things don't go your way. You've got all the power you need to turn things around in your own head.
    • Marcus claims that every person in the world contributes to the workings of the universe, whether that person knows it or not. He includes the least-loved types of people, too.
    • It's in our power to choose how we're going to participate in this universal workforce, however. So Marcus warns himself: be a quality worker, not someone unworthy.
    • Marcus asks rhetorically if divine beings and heavenly bodies have different roles in the cosmos—and whether or not they still manage to work together.
    • Marcus puts forth his argument for benevolent gods who are looking out for him. After all, what could possibly be in it for them to do him harm, especially when providence is looking out for the good of the entire human community?
    • But, for argument's sake, Marcus thinks of a universe in which the gods do not care about the welfare of anything. It makes him uncomfortable to think of this.
    • In such a universe, Marcus says, he'd have to look out for himself, and to do that, he would choose a rational and social life. It just suits him.
    • Marcus proclaims himself a citizen of Rome and the world. He can only thrive when these two "cities" both prosper.
    • Marcus reiterates his first idea: everything that happens to him is for the good of the universe.
    • But it's also true that what's good for the individual is good for the Whole as well.
    • Marcus is suffering from some serious blues. His life is nothing but boring sameness, and he honestly can't wait to get out.
    • Marcus tells himself to think of the dead—both highborn men and low—and even of those whose names are already forgotten.
    • It's no biggie for those who are dead. The important thing is to live life as a lover of justice, truth, and tolerance.
    • Finally, a cheering thought. Marcus observes the good in his friends to lift his spirits, and he notes that the more he finds virtues in others, the better he feels.
    • Here's a peculiar line of reasoning: Marcus asks himself if he resents not weighing more. Well, then—why would he resent the short length of his life? He tells himself that he needs to be okay with what he's given.
    • Marcus talks about "them" again. In this case, it's about persuasion. If he can't convince "them" of his point of view, he will simply have to gain whatever advantage he can out of the convo. This way, his intention will be somewhat accomplished.
    • Marcus discusses the "good." Those seeking fame believe it to be praise; for pleasure-seekers, it's something that makes them feel good; and for a man of intellect, it's social action.
    • Marcus reiterates that things can't form value judgments or have them inherently. Only the mind can do this.
    • Marcus reminds himself to listen to those around him and be empathetic.
    • Marcus uses a bee analogy to reiterate that what is good for the Whole is good for the individual.
    • Marcus makes an implied analogy: if less skilled workers badmouth their leaders, who would they obey? Seems like the emperor is having a bad day at work.
    • Simple declaration: Look how many of my friends are dead.
    • An angry Marcus questions perceptions of reality and of "false representations" that make the job harder.
    • Marcus tells himself that there will be no obstacle to following his own nature. Also, only things in accordance with Nature can ever happen to him.
    • A weary Marcus comments on the behavior of those around him. He feels that "they" are willing to do questionable things in order to impress shady people.
    • Marcus observes that everything will be hidden with the passage of time.
  • Book 7

    • Marcus comments on the evil that he sees—and has seen (and will continue to see)—in the world around him. More on the sameness and cyclical nature of human behavior and the shortness of time.
    • Back to principles: only the death of the mind can extinguish them. Marcus observes that everything external to the mind has no power over it, since the mind makes its own judgments.
    • Marcus believes that he can refresh and renew himself by changing the way he thinks about things, returning to the way he was before he felt bummed.
    • Marcus lists the things of the world that irritate him and make it difficult to live out his principles.
    • Marcus reminds himself to remain tolerant and judge people only by their own criteria (and not his).
    • Marcus tells himself to pay close attention to any conversation he's involved in and make sure he understands what is being discussed.
    • Marcus sounds out his capabilities. If he isn't up to a task, he finds someone who would be better suited to it. If he is up to the task, he takes it as something given from the Whole for his development. The important thing is to do the job well and for the benefit of the community.
    • Marcus reflects on men of reputation who are now long forgotten—and also on those who celebrated their fame.
    • Marcus reminds himself that it's his duty to seek help when he needs it.
    • Marcus tells himself not to worry about the future, since he will have the same faculties of reason to deal with it if or when he gets there.
    • Marcus reiterates his belief in the unity and harmony of all things. There is one universe, one head honcho god, one common reason in all humans.
    • Marcus says (again) that every material thing will reach dissolution at some point. All things will be subsumed into the universe, and all memory of these things will be dissolved, too.
    • Reason allows men to act in accordance with nature.
    • Marcus reiterates that he's meant to do the right thing under his own direction—not be held to it by outside forces.
    • Marcus compares rational beings to the "limbs of an organic entity," meaning that they were meant to work together for a common purpose.
    • Marcus creates a new mantra for himself ("I am a limb..., I am a limb...). Don't ask us.
    • Marcus also does some etymological gymnastics to say this: if you translate "limb" to mean "part," you don't understand what it means to belong to the Whole.
    • Marcus tells the universe to bring it on: let whatever will happen to his body happen. He will stay tranquil in his mind, refusing to call what comes to pass either good or ill.
    • Marcus says his goodness should not be affected by outside action or opinion. Like an emerald that does not change color, he will be steadfast.
    • Marcus tells himself that his directing mind will not cause trouble for itself. If something external tries to disturb it, perhaps pain will come. As for the rest of him—the body should avoid pain, the senses should alert it to problems, but reason can't be touched unless it gets involved with all the drama of the external world.
    • If the directing mind/reason will just withhold judgment on the drama—like whether what is happening to the body is good or bad—it can keep itself untouched.
    • Reason has no needs—unless it forms bad habits.
    • Marcus seems to be plagued by a mind that "imagines" bad things that can ruin his happiness. But he's emperor, so he just tells his imagination to get gone. He assures his imagination that he's not angry. He just desires its absence.
    • Marcus reminds himself not to be afraid of change, since it is part of the nature of the Whole. All things come to being through change.
    • It is even necessary for Marcus himself to be changed, if he wishes to be part of the changing nature of the Whole.
    • We get more on the movement of the human body through the grand recycling scheme of the universe. Marcus marvels at how many philosophers have been devoured by time and dispersed. He also notes that the same is true for regular people.
    • Marcus is concerned that he will one day do something against his human nature.
    • Marcus tells himself that all will be forgotten—including him.
    • Marcus observes that even people who make mistakes are loveable because there is a unity between all rational creatures in the universe.
    • Also, according to Marcus, most people are merely ignorant; they're not malicious. And let's face it: everybody will be dead soon, anyway. Might as well love the ones you're with.
    • Finally, another person can't harm Marcus's directing mind. He's always going to be tranquil there.
    • "Universal nature" molds the things of the world out of the substance of the universe as you might mold things out of wax.
    • The Universe also "melts down" one thing to have more substance to make something else—it's a cosmic recycling program.
    • Nothing lasts very long before it is broken down again and the process starts all over again.
    • Marcus declares that a frown kills the face's ability to express other emotions. Too much frowning and—like your mother always said—your face will get stuck that way.
    • Marcus feels that he needs to pay attention to this behavior in himself because he's becoming insensitive to the wrongs he's committing.
    • Everything will be changed by the Whole and recycled into something else in order to rejuvenate the world.
    • Marcus urges himself to consider what the directing mind of a person who wrongs him is doing: how is it judging good and evil? By considering this, he will be able to see that he and the person who wrongs him both probably believe good to mean the same thing. In which case, they have something in common, and he should forgive the wrongdoer.
    • And then, perhaps, he might not be a good judge of good and evil, anyway—in which case, whatever has happened to him won't matter.
    • Marcus reminds himself to focus on the good that he has—not the things he doesn't have. But while he's being thankful for these things, he has to make sure that he doesn't become so used to them that he's dependent on them for his serenity.
    • Marcus advises himself to find contentment within, withdrawing from the activity of the world. His right actions should be enough to keep him happy.
    • There are some important things on the emperor's "To-Do" list: 1) Get rid of imagination; 2) Ignore the promptings of impulse; 3) Focus on the present; 4) Dissect and analyze the stuff that happens to you; 5) Think about your death; 6) Let go of past wrongs.
    • Marcus tells himself to focus on the conversation at hand and really enter empathetically into it.
    • More instructions on how to live a good life: value simplicity and integrity; show love to people and god.
    • Marcus must also remember that law governs everything. Keep it simple.
    • Death dilemma: dispersal into atoms versus recycling into the Whole? Or... wait for it... total extinction? Which one would you choose?
    • Marcus thinks that pain can go one of two ways: it can kill us, or it can linger and make life hard.
    • In the second case, a person should just retreat into his or her mind and let the pain have its way with the body. Let the body revolt against it, if it can.
    • Marcus reflects on those who seek fame, and he points out the futility of such an exercise.
    • The dialogue we get next may be something that Marcus had read and recorded for his personal use here. The upshot: if a man could have a total view of time and existence, he would not put much value on human existence. He would not worry about death.
    • Marcus assesses his situation as emperor: damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.
    • Marcus feels that if the face is capable of expressing itself at the whim of emotion, the mind should be even more easily controlled by itself, since it is a superior organ.
    • More collected wisdom, this time from Euripides: basically, facts shouldn't anger you.
    • More recorded lit, this time from an unknown source. This one is a type of blessing, praying for the subject to bring joy to gods and the community.
    • More Euripides: human lives are compared to ears of corn falling to the reaper.
    • And guess what? Even more Euripides: if a person should find that the gods no longer care for him and his heir, there must be a darn good reason.
    • Euripides: the speaker is upheld by right.
    • Marcus includes a quote here that echoes a previous sentiment: don't get involved in displays of extreme emotion.
    • Next up: Plato. A man worth his salt does not think about his mortality; instead, he thinks about the rightness of his actions.
    • More Plato: if a man has judged a "position" to be suitable—or if he has been commanded to take it—he should defend it without a worry for death.
    • And yet more Plato: a definition of nobility and virtue. They are something more than saving yourself; it's not about worrying about death and living just for the sake of continuing on. Your focus should be on the quality of your life and actions.
    • Marcus advises himself to do some stargazing to lift him from the muck of the world.
    • Marcus restates the need to view humanity as if he were a heavenly body way up on high, looking down. From there, he can see the entire array of humans—and their smallness.
    • Marcus tells himself that if he looks back on the past, he can predict the future, since everything that happens recurs in cycles. It's an eternal sameness of shenanigans.
    • This exercise helps Marcus see that a short life is as good as a long one.
    • Back to Euripides: earth returns to earth; whatever comes from heaven also returns there. Or, if not, then we'll be broken up into atoms and scattered throughout the universe.
    • And Euripides again: humans seek shelter from death through rituals and magic.
    • Marcus includes another quote, this time from an unknown source: humans just have to suck up whatever the gods throw their way.
    • Marcus refers to sport here—specifically, wrestling—and says that prowess in the field doesn't necessarily mean the athlete is a person of virtue.
    • If Marcus will do a thing according to reason (which is something humans share with gods), then there's no worry that harm will be done to anyone.
    • Marcus reminds himself that it's his duty to revere god, to treat men fairly, and to pay attention to what is going on around him so that he doesn't miss anything important.
    • Marcus calls himself to attention, training his focus on his own business (or path). He reminds himself not to worry about the directing minds of others. He must tend to his own duties.
    • Everyone else also has to tend to whatever their natures tell them to do.
    • According to Marcus, rational creatures are marked by three traits. 1) As beings with reason, humans are meant to serve each other—just as lower beings are meant to serve humans. As such, human action should be social.  2) Humans are also called to shun the world of the senses and impulses. A rational person would never allow him- or herself to be controlled by these. 3) Humans should never make rash judgments or to let false representations deceive them in their decision-making.
    • It is man's duty to stick to these principles at all times—or he might lose his humanity.
    • Marcus creates an exercise to make himself grateful for whatever life he has left. He is to imagine that he is dead already and that the rest of life is a bonus.
    • Marcus counsels himself to be contented with his lot in life.
    • Marcus wants to keep frustrated people in his mind's eye. Why? Because their vexation never makes them feel better, nor does it ever fix anything.
    • Instead, Marcus should spend his time thinking about how to turn a bad situation to his advantage and remain calm.
    • Marcus advocates looking out for number one in this one—rather than for the common good.
    • Marcus advocates retreat inside his mind again, for refreshment and in order to find goodness.
    • Marcus thinks that he should be graceful in his bodily movements—or at least outwardly composed. However, he needs to do this without showing too much effort.
    • Marcus thinks that wrestling is a better analogy for life than dancing because the wrestler is always at the ready—and a good one is never thrown by something he didn't see coming. (Marcus clearly hasn't been dancing lately.)
    • Marcus warns himself to be careful of those whose approval he is courting—and to consider how their own minds are working. To understand their minds is to understand better their errors and erase the need of their approval.
    • More Plato: the soul doesn't want to be deprived of truth—or, as Marcus adds, any of the other virtues.
    • Keeping this in mind will make Marcus kinder to others.
    • Marcus reminds himself that pain can't degrade his rational mind. He cites Epicurus, who says that pain has its limits—and that we shouldn't exaggerate its effects.
    • There are other things that fall in the pain category—exhaustion, heat, etc.—and these experiences should be governed by this good advice.
    • Don't treat the man who hates mankind as he, well, treats mankind.
    • Marcus questions how we know that Socrates was a great man. Sure, he was a great philosopher and speaker, but Marcus believes we have to look into his soul to know for sure.
    • But how to do that? Marcus sets up some criteria: was Socrates content with his lot? Was he too harsh a critic, or was he a marshmallow? Did he shun the life of the senses?
    • Marcus acknowledges that even though his substance is drawn from the stuff of the universe, he should still be able to cordon himself off and take control of himself. He also reminds himself that he needs almost nothing to be happy.
    • Though Marcus strikes a melancholy note (he'll never be a philosopher, he says), he cheers himself up by thinking that he doesn't need to be a full-time scholar to feel divinity within.
    • Marcus reiterates the necessity of living a tranquil life, no matter what chaos is happening around him. Even if lions are tearing off his arms and legs, he'll be okay.
    • Marcus offers a dialogue between Judgment (his mind) and Circumstance (the hungry lions), in which J tells C who he is in reality.
    • Then, Ready Use (Marcus's ability to make something good out of the situation) and Event (the ripping off of arms and legs) have a chat. Ready Use is totally happy to see Event, since he's giving him good material to work with. He wants to exercise reason and show that man can handle anything.
    • Trippy.
    • Marcus reminds himself to keep his death in his mind if he wants to be perfect.
    • Marcus points out that the immortal gods don't complain that they have to live so long with stupid humans driving them nuts. Why should we, who live infinitely shorter lives, complain about working hard?
    • Marcus tells himself that it's stupid not to get rid of his own vices. It's infinitely easier than avoiding the vices of others.
    • If your reason can't find something intelligent or of benefit to the community, whatever it's examining is not worth the time.
    • Marcus chides himself for looking for a reward for helping others or for other good behavior. The social behavior in itself is its own reward.
    • Marcus acknowledges that everyone likes it when good things happen. Doing things that are part of one's nature is just such a benefit.
    • Marcus reminds himself that the Whole intended to create the entire universe and everything in it. And everything down to his time is continuously created by the Whole.
    • Marcus feels that this knowledge should help him live a life of serenity.
  • Book 8

    • Marcus begins this book with a tone of regret: he will not be a career philosopher. He will not even have the reputation of being a philosopher. (Little does he know that history will say otherwise.)
    • It's not a surprise, really, Marcus says, since he was born to an active life. He has to content himself with knowing he's walking the path laid down for him.
    • Marcus contemplates the meaning of a good life and understands that it is not to be found in a life of luxury. Rather, he can live a good life by understanding good and evil and using that knowledge to control himself.
    • Marcus defines the good as that which controls him and makes him brave. Evil does the opposite—in fact, it takes away his freedom.
    • Marcus thinks he should begin each enterprise by asking himself if he will regret it later.
    • Marcus also reminds himself that he will be dead soon and that he should be content with being intelligent, social, and god-loving.
    • Marcus pits three great military leaders up against three famous philosophers to see how they stack up. It doesn't go well for the leaders. Marcus privileges the work of the philosophers, since their work reveals truths and makes people masters of themselves.
    • Marcus notes that no matter how ticked off he is, those who tick him off will just keep doing their thing.
    • Marcus gives himself a pep talk: don't worry, you'll be dead soon—just like the emperors before you. He tells himself to focus on the present and to his duty as a good man.
    • Change is the work of the universe, but there is no cause for fear. Everything in existence has gone through serious changes to be what it is—and this happens over and over.
    • All living things find their purposes when they act according to their natures. For humans, this means: 1) refraining from deceit; 2) performing social actions; 3) not overreaching; 4) embracing their lot in life.
    • Rational creatures are a lot like leaves, which are part of a plant's nature. Except that humans are part of universal nature, which is rational.
    • Marcus thinks of Universal Nature as just in its actions, giving to each created thing just what it needs.
    • Marcus notes that he can't devote himself to the study of philosophy. However, he can still do all the things necessary to be a good man and live a good life. This includes showing generosity and love even to those who tick him off.
    • Marcus tells himself to quit blaming life at court for his shortcomings.
    • Marcus defines regret as the missed opportunity to benefit from something. That thing also has to be something that a good person would be interested in having or doing.
    • A good person would never regret missing out on pleasure—which means that pleasure must not be beneficial.
    • Marcus lays out a pattern of questioning that will help him break down things into their constituent parts so that he can better know what they really are and where they come from.
    • Marcus must not have had enough sleep in his time, because he's back to reminding himself about the need to rise from bed cheerfully. After all, he is waking up to do the work that is proper to his nature, so he should not begrudge giving up the pleasure of a warm bed.
    • Marcus urges himself to examine his thoughts carefully to understand better what he is feeling and what approach he is taking in any given situation.
    • Marcus lays out some criteria for judging the character of a person. First, he wants to learn how the person thinks about good versus bad in life. By doing this, he will better be able to understand why the person acts the way he does. And this will make him more empathetic and tolerant.
    • Marcus uses a string of comparisons to the natural world to illustrate humans' ability to discern things by their proper characteristics and actions (for example, a fig tree brings forth a fig). It would be ridiculous to be surprised by such actions. The same would be true if a doctor or a captain of a ship were to be surprised by adversity.
    • Marcus reminds himself that it is not a bad thing to stand corrected. He does not change his nature if he changes his mind based on his own judgment or sound advice.
    • Marcus contemplates the mechanics of choosing to do the wrong thing. If the choice is in his power, then he would not choose to do such a thing.
    • But if another person makes such a choice, who is to blame? Marcus suggests that there is no blame in this case.
    • Instead of blaming, Marcus sees that his role is to set the person or the situation right, if he can. Blame doesn't work, because it serves no purpose, and all good actions should have a purpose or an aim.
    • We get more of Marcus's understanding of existence after death. Matter is recycled throughout the universe, where it's broken down into its basic elements. These elements are then refashioned into other things. Marcus tells himself that these are the facts, and there's no point complaining about it all.
    • Marcus believes that everything has a purpose in life—at every level of the scala naturae. Even the gods were born for a reason.
    • Marcus challenges himself to figure out what purpose he was born for. He sincerely doubts that it was for pleasure.
    • Death is part of the great scheme of things from the very beginning. Marcus uses the analogy of a ball being thrown into the air. It's just as good for the ball to come down as it was for it to go up. Likewise for a bubble when it pops. It's all an inherent part of the life cycle.
    • Marcus wants to analyze each thing through an entire "life cycle" to understand what it might really be.
    • Marcus jumps then to the contemplation of time: life is short for everyone. Moreover, we are tiny specks on a tiny speck of a continent on a tiny planet.
    • Even worse: we're not all in sync with each other, even though we are kin by means of the fact that we all engage in reason.
    • Marcus tells himself once again to focus on the task or thought at hand. Apparently, he's going through a tough time, and he tells himself that he deserves what he's getting since he keeps putting off being a good man.
    • Whatever action he undertakes, Marcus says it must be for the common good. He must also accept what happens to him as originating with the gods and the universe.
    • Marcus compares life and the physical world to dirty, slimy, used bathwater.
    • Marcus works his way through a succession of generations that mourned their predecessors and then were buried themselves. He asks where they've all gone—and what about their fame?
    • Marcus knows the answer. At some point, everyone is broken down into component parts and scattered or recycled.
    • A human's proper job is to be kind to others, shun the senses, and live a life of contemplation when possible.
    • Marcus sees himself connected in three ways: 1) to the earth itself; 2) to the actions of the gods, which set everything in motion; 3) to mankind.
    • Pain can irritate the body or the soul. The soul, however, can choose not to define pain as evil and therefore remain untroubled by it. The soul is a closed circuit that nothing can penetrate.
    • Marcus urges himself to keep his mind a blank slate when it comes to sense impressions. This way, he will keep his mind pure and calm.
    • Marcus reminds himself not to use fancy language when addressing people. He just wants to get straight to the point.
    • Marcus observes that entire imperial families and courts have perished, and he remarks on the fact that some tombstones say "the last of his line." No matter how much they tried, total oblivion got them, anyway.
    • Marcus reminds himself that he has to just do it: continuously achieve things step by step and hope that everything he does is as successful as it can be.
    • Even if there are external obstacles, Marcus acknowledges that he will always be the master of himself. And if there are obstacles, he can adapt to meet them.
    • Marcus uses the analogy of a severed limb to talk about how a person can cut himself off from society by not accepting his fate.
    • But if a person so cuts himself off, he or she also has it within his power to rejoin the Whole again.
    • Marcus believes this a possibility unique to mankind—to come back to god after leaving.
    • Using some very theological language, Marcus talks about how god has given people something like free will so that they can choose to come back to the universal community if they wish.
    • The Whole has given rational human beings the power to change any obstacle in their path into something useful to help them in their purpose—whatever that is.
    • Marcus tells himself once again not to worry about the difficulties of the past or future and to focus on the work of the present. He's pretty sure he can handle that. Doing this will also help him understand that it's just the present he's worried about—and he should be able to put on his big boy pants and just deal with it.
    • Marcus reflects on the deaths of his brother and other emperors as well as on the reactions of their mourners (now also dead). He concludes that it's all about fate.
    • There's no point in worrying about mortality, since we're all going to wind up a pile of rotting bones, anyway. Nice.
    • Marcus quotes a poet: use your sharp sight but add good judgment to perception.
    • Justice is the alpha virtue: there is no other virtue that goes against it.
    • On the contrary, pleasure can be stymied by restraint—which is a virtue.
    • Pain is nothing to the mind if the mind doesn't judge it to be an evil.
    • Of course, pain usually happens to the body, but Marcus says that the body will just have to make a judgment about the situation itself—which, of course, it can't actually do, since it's just a body.
    • Just as an impediment to sense perception and impulse is a bad thing for animals, an impediment of the mind is bad for an intelligent being.
    • It's no problem for the rational mind to have sensuality or impulsivity curbed, since sensuality and impulsivity are not part of the nature of the rational mind.
    • Marcus reiterates that the mind can't be touched by external things once it is fenced off from the rest of the world.
    • Marcus tells himself that there is no harm in him, either to himself or to others.
    • Marcus declares that he finds joy in keeping his directing mind free of external influences. He acknowledges the needs of other humans and treats them as they deserve.
    • Once again, Marcus says it's all about focusing on the present and leaving the ambition for eternal fame behind.
    • There will always be haters; what difference does it make if they're still bandying your name about in the future?
    • Marcus may be addressing some divine agent (like Fate) when he says that he will be content no matter where he is thrown, because his internal divinity will be happy.
    • Also, Marcus tells himself not to be grumpy because the present isn't going as he would like. To be unhappy about that is to be a prisoner.
    • There is nothing that can happen to a human that... can't happen to a human. It's the same for oxen. Therefore, Marcus says, quit your whining. The Universe only gives you what's proper to the human condition.
    • Marcus points out—once again—that vexation that comes from outside the mind really just has to do with how a person thinks about the situation.
    • Marcus gives himself some good advice to remedy this. If it's a problem with his attitude, he just needs to change the 'tude. If it's because he hasn't done something, he just needs to do it. If there's something external stopping him, it really is out of his control. If that makes him want to die, then he should just exit life gracefully and get it over with.
    • We get more on the virtue of getting your reason to withdraw into itself so that it can't be touched by outside forces. It becomes a "fortress" or "impregnable retreat" that a person can access in times of trouble.
    • Marcus warns himself not to embellish on his first impressions and so make them bigger or worse than they are.
    • The only time it's okay to add stuff to initial impressions is when you can access a person who has experienced everything. Then you can come to conclusions.
    • Marcus tells himself not to question why there are obstacles in his path. All he has to do is simply remove them or go around them.
    • The Whole has no unwanted or unused trash. Everything is contained by it, and it uses everything for its purpose. Even decaying things are broken down and recycled into something fresh.
    • The Whole, then, is a complete and closed system.
    • Marcus urges himself to focus on the completion of things, whether it is in speaking, thinking, or doing.
    • Marcus recommends that he keep an even keel in life (no manic highs or lows) and that he take some time for himself.
    • Marcus observes that though there's a lot of wickedness going on in the world, there is no reason why he can't remain tranquil in his mind.
    • Marcus compares the mind to a clear spring that is able to move any dirt that is tossed in by its natural motions. By doing so, it remains pure. He can be like this spring by remaining a good person and staying free of external muck.
    • Marcus reflects on the value of the opinions given by people who do not understand that the universe is ordered and purposeful and who have no idea of their own purpose in the world.
    • Anyone who fears the opinions of such people would be even more lost.
    • We get more on pleasing people: why would Marcus want to earn the praise of people who curse themselves or of people who are never happy?
    • On a more sober note, Marcus wonders if he can ever be satisfied if he regrets all that he does.
    • Marcus advises himself to take his thoughts from the universal mind, just as he takes his breaths from the air surrounding him. The Whole is in everything and is there for the taking.
    • Evil has no power to harm either the universe or the individual by itself. It is only destructive for the wicked person, who can stop being evil if he so chooses.
    • Marcus acknowledges that while human beings are made for the greater good of each other, he doesn't care one bit for what his neighbor's directing mind tells him to do. He's got his own mind to worry about.
    • Marcus knows this is true because if his neighbor does something evil, it doesn't affect Marcus himself. Marcus believes that his fortune is in his own hands and cannot be manipulated by other people's plans.
    • Marcus discusses the particulars of sun rays: they extend in a line and settle on any solid object that block their path.
    • Marcus compares the universal mind to these sun rays. The universal mind radiates continuously and settles on everything without being diminished. Those who accept it are "illuminated."
    • The fear of death is a fear of change. In this case, it's about states of consciousness.
    • If there is no consciousness after death, who cares? We won't be conscious to worry about it.
    • If there is a different consciousness, life doesn't end.
    • Marcus reiterates that humans are social beings born to live in community. To that end, we have two choices: teach people, or tolerate them.
    • The mind moves like an arrow when it is active, seeking its target.
    • Another shout-out to empathy: open your mind to others, and enter into their minds.
  • Book 9

    • Marcus gets theological again. He speaks of injustice as a sin committed by rational people who were meant to live for each other.
    • To act against another human being is to move against Nature.
    • Lying is a great problem, too, because man moves against the goddess Truth.
    • Lies that are intentional feed into the sin of injustice.
    • "Unconscious liars" are out of tune with the Whole and are therefore divorced from their own natures. This kind of person fights against his or her own humanity.
    • Also sinful are pleasure and the avoidance of pain. These are problems because a person who is thwarted from pleasure or who suffers pain will blame the gods for the unfairness of it all.
    • Marcus points out that this is often because the wicked enjoy pleasure while the good suffer.
    • Marcus also claims that to fear future events is a sin, though he doesn't explain much why.
    • Those who seek pleasure often commit injustice, since they will stop at nothing to gain their will.
    • Marcus says that a person in tune with Nature will remain indifferent to either pain or pleasure—no extremes for this person. If a person is not indifferent, he or she is sinning.
    • Marcus clarifies his statement that Nature is "indifferent" to pain and pleasure. He means that both things are distributed through the universe to all that lives, with no bias.
    • "Providence" set out to create an ordered universe and created principles with which to govern it. So it's all about the creation and re-creation of the universe—it's not about favoritism.
    • Rational people prefer to leave deceitful friends than to sully their minds. They would prefer avoid evil all together.
    • The reason? A sickness of the mind is worse than one of the body. It degrades a person's humanity.
    • Marcus reminds himself that Death is his friend. At any rate, it's part of the process of life, and a wise person just thinks of it as another function of the body.
    • Marcus finds another way to make himself happy about death: he won't have to deal with work anymore, nor will he have to deal with the people he can't stand.
    • Marcus reminds himself that he still has to be nice to these people, but oh, how glad he'll be when he's dead and won't have to deal with them anymore.
    • Death would be much harder if Marcus only lived with people like himself. However, this is not his reality.
    • The longer Marcus hangs on in this world, the more likely he will be "contaminated" and begin to lose his identity.
    • Those who sin and do wrong only hurt themselves by becoming wicked.
    • Marcus finds that one can commit a wrong either actively (by doing something) or passively (by not acting).
    • Marcus wants to be content with the present again and focus on the judgment and actions before him.
    • Marcus wants to shut down the faculties that upset the tranquility of his mind: imagination, desire, impulse.
    • There is a spiritual unity for all rational and irrational creatures. Marcus also sees a commonality in the elements that are shared by all who live on earth, drawing things together in harmony.
    • Marcus reflects on the social nature of the scala naturae.All elements tend toward their own kind: water to water, earth to earth, fire to air (because of the "elemental fire"). In just this way, rational creatures have an affinity for one another. They are a "tribe."
    • Marcus tells us more about collective bonding in irrational and rational creatures: bees work for the hive, flocks of birds work together to raise their young.
    • For humans, there are communities, households, and governmental bodies. Even heavenly bodies have this kind of affinity, which can be seen in the harmonious movement of the stars.
    • Yet it's only rational beings who forget this "family-feeling" for one another.
    • Although a person may have the ability to cut him- herself off from humanity, it is mostly in his or her nature to stick with his group. A true outlier is rare.
    • All things have purpose and "bear fruit," including Reason.
    • Marcus reminds himself to have patience with those who do wrong. If he can't change them, he can treat them kindly. And why should he? Well, even the gods have patience with them.
    • Marcus tells himself not to fuss about work. His goal in life is to do what is necessary for the common good.
    • Marcus records that he's tossed all his cares away—at least for one day. He was able to do this because all his worry was internal, and he finally took control of it.
    • Nothing changes over time, including the unpleasantness of earthly life.
    • Marcus imagines external concerns as strangers standing on the doorstep of the mind. It's only the directing mind that makes value judgments about them.
    • Marcus says that good and evil can only be judged by actions, not feelings. The same is true of people.
    • Marcus uses the image of a stone tossed in the air to illustrate that man's decline is not an evil in itself. The stone suffers no evil in its rising up or its the falling back down to earth.
    • Marcus encourages himself to understand the directing minds of those around him so that he can get a clearer picture of those who might criticize him.
    • Change is constant. Marcus reminds himself that he is constantly changing and going through stages of decay—and that the same is true for the universe itself.
    • Marcus tells himself that he shouldn't fuss at the wrongs of another.
    • Marcus observes that there are deaths everywhere in the middle of life: when an activity or stage of life ends, for instance. But none of these changes are frightening.
    • Marcus remembers different stages of his own life, for example when he lived with his grandpa, mother, and adoptive father. He admits that those changes were nothing to worry about. The same will be true for him at the end of his whole life: nothing new to see there. Move along.
    • Marcus tells himself to check out as many directing minds as he can: his own, to make sure he's not being shady (i.e. unjust); the Whole's, to keep his origins in mind; and others', to understand his intentions and see if they are kindred spirits.
    • Marcus reminds himself that he is a social being and that his actions should benefit humanity. If he should act otherwise, he would be a traitor to the Whole, destroying the unity of the universe.
    • Marcus is not feeling generous about his contemporaries. He quotes Epictetus and references the Odyssey to illustrate the meanness of their spirits.
    • Marcus advocates breaking everything into its component parts to see it exactly for what it is. This will also help him judge how enduring the thing itself is.
    • Marcus wags his finger at himself for not using his reason as he should.
    • Marcus warns himself to take criticism with a grain of salt. He should consider the source and decide what type of person is making the criticism before worrying.
    • Still, Marcus realizes he has to be tolerant of such people, since they are fellow humans and the gods love them, too.
    • More on the cyclical nature of the universe. Basically, the same stuff is just gonna keep happening.
    • Marcus tries to soothe his anxieties again about the nature of the Whole: either it is a single, unified impulse that created everything, or it is a bunch of random creative bursts.
    • Whether the Whole is a god or just random molecules smashing about, it's all good. And since we're all going to die, anyway, it doesn't pay to worry.
    • Since all of creation is swept up in Time's stream, Marcus realizes that he must do what he has to do right now.
    • Marcus also has to realize that he can't hope for perfection. He's just got to make progress with baby steps if that's the best he can do.
    • Marcus shows more contempt for the people who stand in his way and claim to be philosophers (he says they are "full of snot").
    • Marcus mentions previous great leaders and promises to imitate them if they were reasonable people—but not otherwise. He wants nothing to do with pride and ambition.
    • Marcus encourages himself to contemplate the smallness of human existence. This dashes any desire he might have for lasting fame, but he's okay with that—none of this is important.
    • Marcus tells himself to chill and not let external stuff get him down. He should be just in his actions.
    • Returning to the idea that "thinking makes it so," Marcus tells himself that he can make his troubles disappear by controlling his judgment. By de-cluttering his mind in this way, he has space to contemplate the Universe and its changing nature.
    • Everyone will die soon. It doesn't matter if you die young or old.
    • Again, Marcus advocates examining the souls of the people around him so that he knows what he's up against. And the joke's on them if think their opinion of him matters at all. At all.
    • Loss=change. It's part of the nature of the Universe, and it's all for the good.
    • Why then does Marcus insist on being negative toward the gods about this truth?
    • Decay is a fundamental part of the Universe. Marcus takes apart valuable materials to prove that they are mere nothings—just exhalations of the earth. The soul also is like this, and it too is constantly changing.
    • Marcus scolds himself for being upset, especially when he can't change a given situation. He tries breaking an issue into its parts for analysis.
    • In the end, Marcus calls himself out and says that he has to be humbler and repair his relationship with the gods.
    • "Wrong" seems like a relative term for Marcus. But he knows that a wrongdoer harms himself by his behavior.
    • More gods versus atoms. Marcus tells himself not to worry either way. He can take comfort in knowing that he's still living and still a rational being.
    • Marcus debates with himself about the nature of the gods. Do they have power? If so, then he should pray to them for an increase in personal virtues—and not for material things. But why pray if the gods have given him the gift of self-determination? Can't he just pick himself up by his bootstraps and improve?
    • Well, Marcus can still pray for the gods to help him use the powers that they've already given him.
    • Marcus also reminds himself what to pray for—and this is quite different from what his neighbors might pray for. Marcus asks for virtues to help him endure.
    • More Epicurus: don't focus on the body when you're ill, but discuss and promote virtues in all conversations. Keep the mind calm as the body suffers.
    • Marcus encourages himself to follow the principles of philosophy no matter how difficult life gets. He also tells himself to focus on the work of the present moment.
    • Marcus tells himself not to fret when he runs into a shady character. Not everyone in the world is like this, but bad people do exist. They have to—and that should make him feel less grouchy about them.
    • Marcus takes comfort that Nature has given humanity the skill of opposing wrongs with virtues (we're talking kindness versus cruelty). This means there are always options for those who have gone astray.
    • Bad people, however, can't affect Marcus's mind, no matter how wicked they are. Only the mind can harm itself—by judging the wrong.
    • Marcus tells himself he has no right to be angry at ignorant behavior. Rather, he should learn to expect certain things from certain people.
    • Moreover, he should really be angry with himself for forgetting about such stupidity...
    • Marcus reminds himself that he's pretty much to blame for everything that annoys him, including other people's disloyalty and ingratitude.
    • If Marcus could read character better or not look for reward for doing good things, everything would be fine.
  • Book 10

    • Marcus questions whether or not he will ever be able to live up to all his principles and perfect his soul.
    • Marcus observes that he must do whatever satisfies the natures of his body and mind. Since man is a social being, if he follows his nature, all will be well.
    • Marcus reminds himself that people can bear anything if they think that they can. Also, people are not given more than they can bear. If something unbearable happens, no worries: you'll just die.
    • Marcus reminds himself to help the man who goes wrong by correcting him. If that doesn't work, it's all the emperor's fault for being a poor teacher.
    • Marcus on fate: whatever happens in a man's life was destined for him from before his birth and is linked with his existence.
    • Marcus remembers that he is but a part of the larger Whole of the universe, which makes everything that happens happen for the good of everything. Therefore, he shouldn't complain of his lot.
    • The universe is essentially benign—it can't do anything to harm itself.
    • Marcus should be a happy man, since all is right in the universe. He just has to play his part and work always for the common good. He wants to always be a good citizen of the universe.
    • All parts of the universe (including Marcus) have to die to maintain the health of the Whole.
    • Dissolution brought about by death renews the universe by returning all elements to the Whole, so that the Whole can use them again to fashion new beings.
    • Marcus tells us that human bodies and souls are fed by "influx"—food and wisdom—so that the being that presently exists is quite different from what it was at birth.
    • Marcus warns himself to live up to his reputation as a good man and to do nothing that will change this. If he keeps up his comportment, he will be able to "live again."
    • Marcus advocates living a better life—in accordance with his confessed principles—so that he isn't living a half-life, like a "half-eaten gladiator."
    • If Marcus can live within his principles, huzzah. He will be living an ideal life. If not, he needs to retreat and regroup. Or else he can just die without complaint.
    • Marcus can help himself succeed in a life of virtue by contemplating the gods and being true to the nature of a rational being, since that is what the gods want.
    • Marcus is pretty annoyed with himself: he's clearly not living up to his philosophical principles as much as wishes to. He tells himself to keep practicing and keep breaking things into their component parts in order to understand what they are and how they affect him. External things just aren't worth it.
    • Marcus says that all hunters—including himself—are proud of their catch. But in their hearts, they are really just thieves and rogues, stealing things away from their proper places.
    • Marcus reminds himself to study change and see it in all things. If he does that, he will be closer to leaving his body behind and focusing only on the purpose of his life as part of the Whole.
    • Marcus encourages himself to figure things out for himself, or to ask the counsel of others if he can't figure out what to do. In a pinch, he should go for what is just, since that is the goal of Reason.
    • Marcus contemplates the value of external criticism. It's worth nothing if what he does is just and true, so why worry about what other people think?
    • It's especially important to look into the minds of these critics and see what they are like. Mostly, they're not great people—so their words are of even less value.
    • Marcus concedes that Nature creates everything and takes everything away. His role is to accept that and move on.
    • Marcus reminds himself that he's going to die very soon. He should retreat into his mind and consider himself a citizen of the world. In doing so, he won't be attached to external things, but will work for the common good. If others don't like his approach, they can just kill him. He's pretty hardcore.
    • Marcus tells himself to quit his whining and just be a good man, for Pete's sake.
    • Marcus calls to mind the insignificance of an individual life in view of all time and all existence.
    • All things are in a constant state of decay, which, ironically, is a phase of regeneration for the universe.
    • Marcus reminds himself to judge the characters of the people around him by observing how they are when they are at home. He has no favorable opinion of them.
    • Whatever the universe sends your way is beneficial.
    • Marcus puns on the Greek word for "love" (which can also mean "tends toward") and concludes that the "[t]he whole world loves to create futurity."
    • Marcus says that he has three choices in life: to continue, to retire, or to die. Whatever he chooses, he's got to quit whining.
    • Marcus tells himself that no vacation is as good as the retreat he can build for himself in his mind.
    • Marcus is under stress. What is becoming of his reason? He feels that his reason has become too entangled with externals and is moving away from social concerns.
    • Marcus reasons that a person who has negative emotions is a fugitive from the law of the universe.
    • More about "influx" and how it causes growth and change. Marcus uses the example of sperm in the womb (which becomes a baby) and food eaten by a child (which makes the child grow). To Marcus, this is proof of a higher natural power at work—kind of like gravity, but more transcendent.
    • Marcus remarks on the sameness or cyclical nature of all things that happen in time. History repeats itself.
    • Marcus sees that humans are given a great gift in that they can choose to submit to fate or kick against it. Of course, he believes that a people should submit with grace.
    • Marcus prescribes a way to decide whether or not people should fear death.
    • Marcus tells himself that he should consider his own faults when he feels anger at the wrongdoing of another. This should calm him down right quick. He should really be doing whatever he can to set the other person right.
    • Marcus imagines the philosophers of his day with their predecessors. In the end, where are they? Well, they're dead. In this way, he learns not to value human life—and not to worry about death. He should be concerned with making his way as best as he can along his given path and understanding as much as he can before he has to leave.
    • Marcus reminds himself not to give anyone an excuse to call him a bad man. If he can't be a good person, he should just give up and die.
    • It's in Marcus's hands to respond appropriately to any given situation. It's in a human's nature to do so, and he knows he won't be happy till he acts like a human.
    • Marcus says that inanimate objects—like a toy on wheels—don't have minds or wills of their own to move themselves. But humans do, and they should use their will to move past impediments to right action.
    • It's easy for reason to do what it wills: it's like a wheeled toy on a slope, for instance. If there are more obstacles, they come from ourselves and are powerless to harm us. Marcus says that we can find proof of this by looking at what happens to people when they come up against obstacles: they become better for it, if they are the right sort.
    • Nothing can harm man (the citizen) that doesn't injure the city (the universe). And no external obstacle can strike at natural law.
    • A philosophical person only needs to remind himself of his principles to lose his fear.
    • Marcus specifically mentions the loss of a child or a person's fame, which he likens to leaves that are scattered by the wind. Neither thing matters much, since all will die, and none will have any recollection of either him or his posterity.
    • Marcus claims that a "healthy" mind must be ready for everything that life can throw at it, including the horrible possibility of losing one's children.
    • It's impossible to move through life without accepting the probability of unpleasant things, and Marcus would argue it's not natural or healthy to do so.
    • In a grimly humorous moment, Marcus draws a picture of a man on his deathbed who is surrounded by his colleagues. At least one, he says, will always be wishing him soon dead.
    • If this is the case, then it's best not to think anything of death, which takes us away from a society that doesn't want us. Why hang on, anyway?
    • Marcus tells himself not to be bitter with his colleagues, though. He should be grateful that this attitude will make it much easier to leave his life behind.
    • Marcus advocates a kind of empathy with those around him, so that he can understand where they are coming from. He also warns himself to make sure he knows his own motives.
    • Marcus locates the center of man's identity: his will to action, the thing that makes him do all that he does—his directing mind.
    • Everything else is just bodily stuff. Personal agency is really the thing.
  • Book 11

    • Marcus describes the rational soul as a completely self-determining thing: it observes, defines and works for itself.
    • The rational soul also contemplates the entire universe and sees the motion of the Whole—how it changes and regenerates itself. It observes the cyclical nature of life.
    • The rational soul also has lots of good qualities, like truthfulness and love of neighbor.
    • Marcus reminds himself how good it is to take everything down to its component parts so that he will know how to properly value it—which is to say, not at all.
    • Marcus thinks that a soul willing to leave the body is the best thing ever. But the soul has to be gracious about it—not like the stubborn Christians, who die in defiance of the Romans.
    • Marcus tells himself that doing good for the good of the community is its own reward.
    • Marcus's only real job is to be a good man, and that can only be achieved by adhering to philosophical principles.
    • Tragedies were made for the stage so that we can see just how bad things can get and still be the lot of humanity.
    • Marcus also finds that there are some "useful sayings" to be found in such plays and includes some here.
    • Comedies, however, are of questionable usefulness. Marcus analyzes each period of comedic drama and finds that only Old Comedy offers anything educational.
    • Middle and New Comedy are too newfangled, too realistic for Marcus.
    • Marcus exults that he is in the perfect line of work to practice philosophy.
    • Marcus uses the analogy of a branch cut from a tree to illustrate what happens when a man cuts himself off from society by unsocial behavior.
    • But, unlike a tree, humans have the ability to "re-graft" themselves back onto their communities—and that's gift given to him from the gods.
    • However, a re-grafted person is not the same as he or she was before the rift. And too many instances of separation make it more difficult for a person to be successfully reconciled.
    • Marcus says that he has to keep his eye out for two things: 1) people who will knock him off his destined path, and 2) becoming angry with these people for doing this.
    • It's Marcus's duty to maintain equilibrium on both fronts, since anger against his countrymen would lead him to social isolation.
    • Marcus reasons that the nature of the Whole is more beautiful than any artistic endeavor.
    • Universal nature sets a scale of nature in place, making the lower subservient to higher beings. This also sets up a just society, since it encourages higher beings not to worry about lower ones.
    • Marcus claims that external things can't invade the inner sanctum of the mind—unless a person allows them to.
    • Marcus recommends to himself to turn off his judgment of the external so that it no longer bothers him.
    • The soul retains its purity and tranquility if it occupies its own space and doesn't let external things influence it, but keeps its focus on truth.
    • Marcus addresses the issue of reputation and judgment by his colleagues. He tells himself he shouldn't care what other people think of him as long as he remains a good man. And no matter what, he'll mind his manners and be gentle with those who speak ill of him. In this way, he can't be harmed, since he is doing everything that a man should do.
    • More disdain for those around Marcus, who act hypocritically for personal gain.
    • Marcus compares the honest man with the man that has intense body odor: you can "detect the aura" when you pass him. Eek. He means to say that virtue is easy to spot.
    • Those who fake honesty are the most treacherous of companions.
    • Marcus reminds himself that he's just got to do the best he can in his life.
    • Marcus reiterates the importance of not forming judgments about things that happen; this way, he will prevent himself from magnifying any misfortune he may have.
    • Things will also be easier if Marcus remembers that he will die soon, and none of these annoyances will follow him to his grave.
    • For now, Marcus has to focus on what belongs to his rational nature and act on that.
    • Again, Marcus emphasizes the importance of breaking stuff down. It's important to figure out what it is, how it is going to change, how long it will last, etc.
    • Marcus is going to give a step-by-step on how to deal with anger and return to his rational self: 
    • 1) Marcus should remember that we were all born for the good of each other, that there is a social hierarchy in place, and that he was born to be the leader.
    • 2) Marcus should consider the source. Most of the time, the people angering him just aren't worth the time.
    • 3) If his critics are right, Marcus shouldn't whine. If they're wrong, then he can't be mad at them, because they are ignorant. And clearly, no one likes to be ignorant. Bless their hearts.
    • 4) Marcus tells himself to remember that he isn't perfect, either. That should make him feel better about the idiocy of others.
    • 5) Are the people annoying him really doing the wrong thing? Or is Marcus just being judgmental in unhelpful ways? What if it's part of the universal plan?
    • 6) Human life is measly and everyone involved will soon be dead. That should make Marcus feel better.
    • 7) Marcus confesses that he's only angry because of his own perception of the situation. He should stop being so judgy; no harm has really been done to him.
    • 8) Marcus says that he's only upset because of his emotional response. The original cause is barely responsible for it.
    • 9) Marcus can curb his anger by reeducating the morons who upset him in the first place. That would be much better than throwing them to the lions.
    • Marcus tells himself to keep these nine helpful hints in mind the next time he's tempted to get angry. He reminds himself how desirable it is to remain calm.
    • If Marcus can control his emotional response, he will be in a position of power. And a cool man is a more manly man, considering that this is closer to what nature intended.
    • Anger is also a sign of weakness, just like the acknowledgment of pain.
    • And one more tip (#10): it's utterly stupid to expect bad men to behave well. Why be surprised when they act up and annoy you?
    • Still, it's Marcus's job to put a stop to bad behavior, since it may in fact harm others.
    • Marcus identifies four things that can dement the directing mind and must at all costs be avoided. He recommends four antidotes: 1) Check unnecessary mental images at the door; 2) Ask whether it is for the common good; 3) Don't say what you don't mean; 4) Never give in to the body.
    • Marcus explains that people have contradictory elements at work in them. Some rise, some sink according to their natures. In this, they do the work of the Whole.
    • Only the intellect can work against nature—but to do so is a rebellion against the Whole. This happens when it fusses at the Things That Happen.
    • The rational mind has two goals: to act justly toward people and to respect the gods.
    • Man must have a constant aim in life, and for Marcus, it's always the good of the community. If he focuses all his energies on that, he will be a steady fellow.
    • Marcus alludes to Aesop's fable about the town mouse and the country mouse. He wags his finger at those who behave irrationally out of fear and self-importance.
    • Marcus refers to Socrates's "bogies" or superstitious beliefs to frighten kiddos.
    • Marcus remembers the hospitality of the Spartans.
    • More memories of fine etiquette: Socrates once declined an invitation to visit Archelaus of Macedon because he would never be able to return the favor.
    • From Epicurus: remember the lives of the virtuous, as examples for living.
    • From the Pythagoreans: check out the sky at dawn. Contemplate the order and beauty of the stars.
    • Marcus recalls the humiliation of Socrates at the hand of his wife, Xanthippe, who left him in his underclothes with no coat.
    • Marcus reminds himself that you have to be a student before you can be a teacher.
    • Marcus quotes a fragment of poetry that says he is a slave with no voice.
    • Marcus includes a quote from Homer's Odyssey, from the moment when Odysseus celebrates victory over the Cyclops Polyphemus.
    • Marcus quotes from Hesiod's Works and Days, in which the poet does much handwringing about the loss of respect for elders.
    • Marcus talks about the irrationality of looking for something out of season. In this case, it's for a child when the possibility is gone.
    • More Horrible Advice for Parents, courtesy of Epictetus: when you kiss your child goodnight, remind yourself that he or she might me dead in the morning.
    • Marcus follows Epictetus in believing this isn't morbid; it's just reality.
    • More truths from Epictetus, this time involving grapes and raisins to illustrate change that doesn't obliterate.
    • Epictetus on will: no one can take yours away from you.
    • Epictetus on impulse: make sure that it's for the common good and that the ends justify the means.
    • One last bit from Epictetus: the stakes for the game of philosophy are high, since it is about how a person should live his or her life.
    • Marcus includes a short dialogue from Socrates in which Socrates questions his students about what type of soul they would like to have: rational or irrational. Guess which they choose?
  • Book 12

    • Marcus is being uncharacteristically positive in this last and latest book: you can have what you've always wanted, he says. Just grasp the principles you've been talking about first...
    • Marcus must continue to accept his lot in life, let go of the past, and act with justice. Nothing should hinder him from doing these things.
    • Marcus contemplates the type of person that he wants to be at death: focused on the present, revering the divine within him, concerned to have lived life in accordance with Nature.
    • Marcus encourages himself to see things the way the gods do: stripped bare and in stark reality. In this way, he will always value the right things.
    • Marcus tells himself that he's only in possession of one thing: his mind. If he's wise, he'll work hard to dissociate it from the body so that it can be self-sufficient. If he can do this, he can live out the rest of his short life in peace.
    • Marcus contemplates a paradox: how do people love themselves and yet still value others' opinions of them higher than their own?
    • Marcus thinks about what would happen if a god told people that they had to say absolutely everything they are thinking at all times. It would be impossible, because we are so concerned with our neighbor's opinion of us.
    • Marcus poses a common conundrum: how come the gods allow the best men to die completely, not allowing them to return to life?
    • Marcus isn't sure that this is even a thing, but if it is, he's sure it's the right thing. It's in accordance with nature that all men should face extinction, so it must be okay.
    • Marcus says that we wouldn't even think to ask such a question if the gods weren't just. And since they are just, they wouldn't allow good men to die if it wasn't acceptable.
    • Marcus urges himself to keep practicing (we assume he's speaking of his philosophy here), even though he isn't very good at it. He's sure he will gain some benefit from it.
    • Marcus makes a short list of things to contemplate.
    • Marcus encourages himself to look for the true causes of things and to remember that he can control his judgment of anything that happens, thereby controlling his emotions.
    • Marcus takes the boxer as the metaphor for his philosophical self—and not the gladiator—because the boxer is always at the ready with his fists. He needs no external weapons.
    • Break it all down; see what it really is.
    • People should cheerfully accept what they are destined to do by nature.
    • No blame should be given to the gods, since they can't do wrong.
    • No blame should be given to people, because no one does wrong willingly. No one should blame anyone, ever.
    • People should never be surprised at anything that happens in life. If it's happened, it must be possible.
    • Marcus uses the image of a lamp to illustrate the enduring quality of truth, justice, and restraint.
    • Marcus dissects a wrong. How does he know it's a wrong? Can he get into the mind of the wrongdoer?
    • Marcus also reminds himself that it is madness not to expect a bad person to do bad things. If he wants things to change, he'll have to work with that person to change him or her.
    • Marcus reminds himself not to do or say bad things. Always a good policy.
    • We should always question impressions on the mind and break them down into their component bits.
    • Marcus tells himself to wake up and realize that his mind is stronger than his emotions. In order to control them, he has to know what's in his mind at any moment.
    • Marcus encourages himself to focus and to do everything for the common good.
    • Marcus reminds himself that he and everyone else will soon be dead. Change is what life is all about, and without it, nothing new would come to be.
    • Keep control of your thoughts, says Marcus, by removing your judgments of external things. That is the key to a calm life.
    • Nothing bad happens when something that we're doing comes to an end. The same is true about the end of life. Everyone ends when they're supposed to, according to Nature.
    • The Whole regulates everything for the greater good of the universe.
    • Death always comes at the right time because it the time decreed by the Whole. Further, man is supported by god on his way—if he chooses to walk the path he's been given.
    • Marcus gives himself three ideas to keep in mind: 1) stay focused and just; 2) remember what elements he's made of; 3) remember how puny humanity looks from above and how lovely the spirits of the sky.
    • When you look down on the earth from a high vantage point, says Marcus, you will always see change and yet sameness.
    • Drop judgment and live a tranquil life.
    • Marcus gives us a summary of his philosophy by reminding himself of what's gone wrong if he's upset by something. He's forgotten that 1) everything is meant to happen and is part of the grand design; 2) whatever's wrong is external; 3) everything has happened before; 4) humans are a community of the mind.
    • Further, we own nothing: not body, child, or soul. It all comes from the Whole.
    • We can also control how we feel by controlling our thoughts.
    • Marcus tells himself to remember those people in the past who lost their minds to anger. Where'd it get them? They're all dead now, anyway.
    • Marcus lists people who were famous for their outrageous living. Why not use the resources to live a better, simpler life?
    • Marcus defends his belief in the gods by stating that he sees them at work in the world.
    • Marcus says that his philosophical principles are the only thing that can save him. He's speaking specifically of his ability to see things for what they are, and of his ability to be good and do what is best for the community.
    • Marcus speaks of unity here: of the sun, of "substance," of soul, and of intelligence. These may be broken into many parts, but there is still unity in them.
    • The mind has the ability to reach out to other minds and develop a kinship.
    • Marcus questions his desires: why does he want to live on? He should be focused on the goal, which is to live a life of reason and in reverence of the gods. To fight against fate goes against both these goals.
    • More focus on "tininess": we have tiny, short lifespans; we're a tiny part of the universe; we live on a tiny piece of earth. In which case, none of it matters.
    • What does matter? Following nature and accepting fate.
    • Marcus is laying down what is important in his life as he nears the end of it. For him, it's all about the directing mind and how he's using it.
    • Marcus tells himself to "think nothing of death," because those who seek pleasure don't, either.
    • Death is no big deal, Marcus says, if you value the right things.
    • Marcus addresses himself sternly as a citizen of the global "city." He shouldn't fret about checking out of the city, since it is Nature that calls him out.
    • Marcus says it doesn't matter if he leaves early, either. Life can be full even if leaves halfway through—and this is determined by god, not by Marcus.
    • Marcus assures himself that he can chill, because god is at peace with him.