Since Marcus thinks action in the world is essential to a meaningful life but worldly annoyances may affect one’s tranquility, he suggests one prepare for the day with a few useful reflections. Book 5 begins: “At break of day when you are reluctant to get up, have this thought ready to mind; ‘I am getting up for a man’s work. Do I still then resent it, if I am going out for what I was born for, the purpose for which I was brought into the world?’ ”4 And he defines ‘man’s work’ in this quote: “Man’s joy is to do man’s proper work. And work proper to man is benevolence to his own kind, disdain for the stirrings of the senses, diagnosis of the impressions he can trust, contemplation of universal nature and all things thereby entailed.”5
He also suggests we prepare for the people with whom we will come in contact. “Say to yourself first thing in the morning: today I shall meet people who are meddling, ungrateful, aggressive, treacherous, malicious, unsocial. All this has afflicted them through their ignorance of true good and evil. But I have seen that the nature of good is what is right , and the nature of evil what is wrong, and I have reflected that the nature of the offender himself is akin to my own – not a kinship of blood or seed, but a sharing in the same mind, the same fragment of divinity. Therefore I cannot be harmed by any of them, as none of them will infect me with their wrong.”6 Elsewhere he tells us “In this world there is only one thing of value, to live out your life in truth and justice, tolerant of those who are neither true or just.” 7
He also advises on meeting new people, “ask yourself first this immediate question: ‘What beliefs does this person hold about the good and bad in life?’ Because if he believes this or that about pleasure and pain and their constituents, about fame and adversity, death and life, then I shall not find it surprising or strange if he acts in this or that way, and I shall remember that he has no choice but to act as he does.”8 And if you can, “show them the better way. If you cannot, remember that this is why you have the gift of kindness. The gods too are kind to such people, and in their benevolence even help them to achieve some ends – health, wealth, fame. You can do it too.”9
(further continued next post)
4Meditations, Book 5:1. 5 Book 8:26. 6 Book 5:1. 7 Book 6:47.
8 Book 8:14. 9Book 9:11.