• God views the inner minds of men, stripped of every material sheath and husk and dross. Acting through his thought alone, he makes contact solely with that in them which is an outflow of himself. School yourself to do likewise, and you will be spared many a distraction; for who that looks past this fleshly covering will ever harass himself with visions of raiment, housing, reputation, or any of the rest of life’s costume and scenery?
• I often marvel how it is that though each man loves himself beyond all else, he should yet value his own opinion of himself less than that of others. Assuredly if some god or sage counsellor were to stand beside him and bid him harbour no thought or purpose in his heart without straightway publishing it abroad, he could not endure it for so much as a single day. So much more regard have we for our neighbours’ judgement of us than for our own.
Continue reading ‘Meditations (XVII)’
• Happy the soul which, at whatever moment the call comes for release from the body, is equally ready to face extinction, dispersion, or survival. Such preparedness, however, must be the outcome of its own decision; a decision not prompted by mere contumacy, but formed with deliberation and gravity and, if it is to be convincing to others, with an absence of all heroics.
• Though men may hinder you from following the paths of reason, they can never succeed in deflecting you from sound action; but make sure that they are equally unsuccessful in destroying your charitable feelings towards them. You must defend both positions alike: your firmness in decision and action, and at the same time your gentleness to those who try to obstruct or otherwise molest you. It would be as great a weakness to give way to your exasperation with them as it would be to abandon your course of action and be browbeaten into surrender. In either event the post of duty is deserted; in the one case through lack of courage, and in the other through alienation from men who are your natural brothers and friends.
Continue reading ‘Meditations (XVI)’
• Day by day the buffoonery, quarrelling, timidity, slothfulness, and servility that surround you will conspire to efface from your mind those hallowed maxims it apprehends so unphilosophically and dismisses so carelessly. What duty requires of you is to observe each single thing and perform each action in such a manner that, while the practical demands of a situation are fully met, the powers of thought are at the same time fully exercised; and also to maintain (in reserve, but never lost to sight) the self-confidence of one who has mastered every relevant detail. Are you never going to attain to the happiness of a real integrity and dignity? Of an understanding which comprehends the inmost being of each thing, its place in the world-order, the term of its natural existence, the structure of its composition, and to whom it belongs or who has the power of bestowing or withdrawing it?
Continue reading ‘Meditations (XV)’
• When you are outraged by somebody’s impudence, ask yourself at once, ‘Can the world exist without impudent people?’ It cannot; so do not ask for impossibilities. That man is simply one of the impudent whose existence is necessary to the world. Keep the same thought present, whenever you come across roguery, double-dealing or any other form of obliquity. You have only to remind yourself that the type is indispensable, and at once you will feel kindlier towards the individual. It is also helpful if you promptly recall what special quality Nature has given us to counter such particular faults. For there are antidotes with which she has provided us: gentleness to meet brutality, for example, and other correctives for other ills. Generally speaking, too, you have the opportunity of showing the culprit his blunder – for everyone who does wrong is failing of his proper objective, and is thereby a blunderer. Besides, what harm have you suffered? Nothing has been done by any of these victims of your irritation that could hurtfully affect your own mind; and it is in the mind alone that anything evil or damaging to the self can have reality. What is there wrong or surprising, after all, in a boor behaving boorishly? See then if it is not rather yourself you ought to blame, for not foreseeing that he would offend in this way. You, in virtue of your reason, had every means for thinking it probable that he would do so; you forgot this, and now his offence takes you by surprise. When you are indignant with anyone for his perfidy or ingratitude, turn your thoughts first and foremost upon yourself. For the error is clearly your own, if you have put any faith in the good faith of a man of that stamp, or, when you have done him a kindness, if it was not done unreservedly and in the belief that the action would be its own full reward. Once you have done a man a service, what more would you have? Is it not enough to have obeyed the laws of your own nature, without expecting to be paid for it? That is like the eye demanding a reward for seeing, or the feet for walking. It is for that very purpose that they exist; and they have their due in doing what they were created to do. Similarly, man is born for deeds of kindness; and when he has done a kindly action, or otherwise served the common welfare, he has done what he was made for, and has received his quittance.
Continue reading ‘Meditations (XIV)’
• Despise not death; smile, rather, at its coming; it is among the things that Nature wills. Like youth and age, like growth and maturity, like the advent of teeth, beard, and grey hairs, like begetting, pregnancy, and childbirth, like every other natural process that life’s seasons bring us, so is our dissolution. Never, then, will a thinking man view death lightly, impatiently, or scornfully; he will wait for it as but one more of Nature’s processes. Even as you await the baby’s emergence from the womb of your wife, so await the hour when the little soul shall glide forth from its sheath.
But if your heart would have comfort of a simpler sort, then there is no better solace in the face of death than to think on the nature of the surroundings you are leaving, and the characters you will no longer have to mix with. Not that you must find these offensive; rather, your duty is to care for them and bear with them mildly; yet never forget that you are parting from men of far other principles than your own. One thing, if any, might have held you back and bound you to life; the chance of fellowship with kindred minds. But when you contemplate the weariness of an existence in company so discordant, you cry, ‘Come quickly, Death, lest I too become forgetful of myself.’
Continue reading ‘Meditations (XIII)’