Friday

May 31

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

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §10.

Thursday

May 30

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

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §16.

Wednesday

May 29

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

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book viii. 19.

Tuesday

May 28

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

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book viii. 50.

Monday

May 27

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

Doth not he threaten you, then ?

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

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

Sunday

May 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday

May 25

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


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

Friday

May 24

STUDY these points, these principles, these discourses, contemplate these examples, if you would be free, if you desire the thing in proportion to its value. And where is the wonder that you should purchase so great a thing at the price of others, so many, and so great? Some hang themselves, others break their necks, and sometimes even whole cities have been destroyed, for that which is reputed freedom; and will not you, for the sake of the true and secure and inviolable freedom, repay God what He hath given when He demands it? Will you not study, not only as Plato says, to die, but to be tortured and banished and scourged, and, in short, to give up all that belongs to others? If not, you will be a slave among slaves, though you were ten thousand times a consul; and, even though you should rise to the palace, you will be nevertheless so. And you will feel that though philosophers (as Cleanthes says) do, perhaps, talk contrary to common opinion, yet not contrary to reason. For you will find it true, in fact, that the things that are eagerly followed and admired are of no use to those who have gained them; while they who have not yet gained them imagine that, if they are acquired, every good will come along with them; and then, when they are acquired, there is the same feverishness, the same agitation, the same nauseating, and the same desire of what is absent.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1, ¶19.

Thursday

May 23

HE is free who lives as he likes; who is not subject either to compulsion, to restraint, or to violence; whose pursuits are unhindered, his desires successful, his aversions unincurred. Who, then, would wish to lead a wrong course of life? — "No one." Who would live deceived, prone to mistake, unjust, dissolute, discontented, dejected? — "No one." No wicked man, then, lives as he likes; therefore neither is he free. And who would live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity; with disappointed desires, and incurred aversions? — "No one." Do we then find any of the wicked exempt from sorrow, fear, disappointed desires, incurred aversions?—"Not one." Consequently, then, not free.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1, ¶1.

Wednesday

May 22

THE man who is unrestrained, who hath all things in his power as he wills, is free; but he who may be restrained, or compelled, or hindered, or thrown into any condition against his will, is a slave. "And who is unrestrained?" — He that desires none of those things that belong to others. "And what are those things which belong to others?" — Those which are not in our own power, either to have or not to have.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1, ¶14.

THE things themselves (which either to get or to avoid thou art put to so much trouble) come not unto thee themselves; but thou in a manner goest unto them. Let then thine own judgment and opinion concerning those things be at rest; and as for the things themselves, they stand still and quiet, without any noise or stir at all; and so shall all pursuing and flying cease.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book xi. 10.

Tuesday

May 21

FREEDOM is the name of virtue ; and slavery, of vice.

EPICTETUS. FRAGMENTS. 7.

NO one is free, who doth not command himself.

E. F. 109.

WHAT is wickedness? It is that which many times and often thou hast already seen and known in the world. And so oft as anything doth happen that might otherwise trouble thee, let this memento presently come to thy mind, that it is that which thou hast already often seen and known. Generally, above and below, thou shalt find but the same things. The very same things whereof ancient stories, middle-age stories, and fresh stories are full: whereof towns are full, and houses full. There is nothing that is new. All things that are, are both usual and of little continuance.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book ii. I.

Monday

May 20

CEASE to make yourselves slaves, first of things, and then upon their account, of the men who have the power either to bestow or take them away. Is there any advantage then to be gained from these men? From all, even from a reviler. What advantage doth a wrestler gain from him with whom he exercises himself, before the combat? The greatest. Why, just in the same manner I exercise myself with this man. He exercises me in patience, in gentleness, in meekness. Is my neighbour a bad one? He is so to himself; but a good one to me. He exercises my good temper, my moderation. Is my father bad? To himself, but not to me. "This is the rod of Hermes. Touch with it whatever you please, and it will become gold." No; but bring whatever you please, and I will turn it into good. Bring sickness, death, want, reproach, capital trial. All these, by the rod of Hermes, shall turn to advantage.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. 20, 1.

Sunday

May 19

WE will allow those creatures only to be free who do not endure captivity; but, as soon as they are taken, die, and escape. Thus Diogenes somewhere says, that the only way to freedom is to die with ease. And he writes to the Persian king, “You can no more enslave the Athenians than you can fish." — "How? What, shall not I take them?" — "If you do take them," says he, " they will leave you, and be gone like fish. For take a fish, and it dies. And, if the Athenians too die as soon as you have taken them, of what use are your warlike preparations?” This is the voice of a free man, who had examined the matter in earnest, and, as it might be expected, found it out. But, if you seek it where it is not, what wonder if you never find it?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. I, 6.

Saturday

May 18

DIOGENES used to say, "Ever since Antisthenes made me free, I have ceased to be a slave." How did he make him free? Hear what he says. “He taught me what was my own, and what not. An estate is not my own. Kindred, domestics, friends, reputation, familiar places, manner of life, all belong to another."

"What is your own, then?"

"The use of the appearances of things. He showed me that I have this, not subject to restraint or compulsion; no one can hinder or force me to use them any otherwise than I please. Who, then, after this, hath any power over me? Philip, or Alexander, or Perdiccas, or the Persian king? Whence should they have it? For he that is to be subdued by man must, long before, be subdued by things. He, therefore, of whom neither pleasure nor pain, nor fame nor riches, can get the better, and who is able, whenever he thinks fit, to throw away his whole body with contempt, and depart, whose slave can he ever be?"

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. 23, 4.

Friday

May 17

PRISCUS HELVIDIUS, when Vespasian had sent to forbid his going to the senate, answered, "It is in your power to prevent my continuing a senator; but while I am one, I must go." "Well then, at least be silent there."—" Do not ask my opinion, and I will be silent."—"But I must ask it."—" And I must speak what appears to me to be right."—"But if you do, I will put you to death."—" Did I ever tell you that I was immortal? You will do your part, and I mine: It is yours to kill, and mine to die intrepid; yours to banish me, mine to depart untroubled."
What good, then, did Priscus do, who was but a single person? Why what good does the purple do to the garment? What but the being a shining character in himself, and setting a good example to others? Another, perhaps, if in such circumstances Caesar had forbidden his going to the senate, would have answered, “I am obliged to you for excusing me." But such a one he would not have forbidden to go, well knowing that he would either sit like a statue, or, if he spoke, he would say what he knew to be agreeable to Caesar, and would overdo it by adding still more.
EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. 2, 4, 5.

Thursday

May 16

I WOULD be the purple, that small and shining thing, which gives a lustre and beauty to the rest.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. 2, 3.

FOR as for him who is the Administrator of all, he will make good use of thee whether thou wilt or no, and make thee (as a part and member of the whole) so to co-operate with him, that whatsoever thou doest, shall turn to the furtherance of his own counsels, and resolutions. But be not thou for shame such a part of the whole, as that vile and ridiculous verse (which Chrysippus in a place doth mention) is a part of the Comedy.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book vi. 37.

PAY in, before you are called upon, what is due to the public, and you will never be asked for what is not due.

EPICTETUS. FRAGMENTS. 72.

Wednesday

May 15

IS freedom anything else than the power of living as we like?

Nothing else.

Well tell me, then, do you like to live in error?

We do not. No one, sure, that lives in error is free.

Do you like to live in fear? Do you like to live in sorrow? Do you like to live in perturbation?

By no means.

No one, therefore, in a state of fear, or sorrow, or perturbation, is free; but whoever is delivered from sorrow, fear, and perturbation, by the same means is delivered likewise from slavery.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §I, ¶4.

Tuesday

May 14

WHO is it that hath fitted the sword to the scabbard, and the scabbard to the sword? Is it no one? From the very construction of a complete work, we are used to declare positively, that it must be the operation of some artificer, and not the effect of mere chance. Doth every such work, then, demonstrate an artificer; and do not visible objects, and the sense of seeing, and Light, demonstrate one?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §6, ¶2.

SEE the practice of those who play skilfully at ball. No one contends for the ball, as either a good or an evil; but how he may throw and catch it again. Here lies the address, here the art, the nimbleness, the sagacity; that I may not be able to catch it, even if I hold up my lap for it; another may catch it whenever I throw it. But if we catch or throw it with fear or perturbation, what kind of play will this be? How shall we keep ourselves steady; or how see the order of the game? One will say, Throw; another, Do not throw; a third, You have thrown once already. This is a mere quarrel, not a play.

E. D. ii. 5, 3.

Monday

May 13

REMEMBER that you must behave in life as at an entertainment. Is anything brought round to you? Put out your hand and take your share with moderation. Doth it pass by you? Do not stop it. Is it not yet come? Do not stretch forth your desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you.

EPICTETUS. MANUAL. 15.

LET death and exile, and all other things which appear terrible, be daily before your eyes, but chiefly death, and you will never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything.

E. M. 21.

AT a feast, to choose the largest share is very suitable to the bodily appetite, but utterly inconsistent with the social spirit of an entertainment. When you eat with another, then, remember not only the value of those things which are set before you to the body, but the value of that behaviour which ought to be observed towards the person who gives the entertainment.

E. M. 36.

Sunday

May 12

IF you would have your house securely inhabited, imitate the Spartan Lycurgus. And as he did not enclose his city with walls, but fortified the inhabitants with virtue, and preserved the city always free, so you do likewise; not surround yourself with a great courtyard, nor raise high towers, but strengthen those that live with you by benevolence and fidelity and friendship. And thus nothing hurtful will enter, even if the whole band of wickedness was set in array against it.

EPICTETUS. FRAGMENTS. 40.

THERE is nothing more shameful than perfidious friendship.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book xi. 7.

HE is the master of every other person who is able to confer or remove whatever that person wishes to have or to avoid. Whoever then would be free, let him wish nothing, let him decline nothing, which depends on others, else he must necessarily be a slave.

EPICTETUS. MANUAL. 14.

Saturday

May 11

DO not say to what excels, Who are you? If you do, it will, somehow or other, find a voice to tell you, "I am like the purple thread in a garment. Do not expect me to be like the rest, or find fault with my nature, which hath distinguished me from others."

What then, am I such a one? How should I? Indeed, are you such a one as to be able to hear the truth? I wish you were. But, however, since I am condemned to wear a grey beard and a cloak, and you come to me as to a philosopher, I will not treat you cruelly, nor as if I despaired of you, but will ask you—Whom is it, young man, whom you would render beautiful? Know first who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly. You are a man ; that is, a mortal animal, capable of a rational use of the appearances of things. And what is this rational use? A perfect conformity to nature. What have you then particularly excellent? Is it the animal part? No. The mortal? No. That which is capable of the use of the appearances of things? No. The excellence lies in the rational part. Adorn and beautify this, but leave your hair to him who formed it, as he thought good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §1. ¶4, 5.

Friday

May 10

DO you think you deserve to have an unpleasant odour? Be it so. But do those deserve to suffer by it who sit near you, who are placed at table with you, who salute you? Either go into a desert, as you deserve, or live solitary at home, and smell yourself; for it is fit you should enjoy your nastiness alone. But to what sort of character doth it belong to live in a city, and behave so carelessly and inconsiderately? If nature had trusted even a horse to your care, would you have overlooked and neglected him? Now, consider your body as committed to you instead of a horse. Wash it, rub it, take care that it may not be anyone's aversion, nor disgust anyone. Who is not more disgusted at a stinking, unwholesome-looking sloven, than at a person who hath been rolled in filth? The stench of the one is adventitious from without, but that which arises from want of care is a kind of inward putrefaction.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §11. ¶3.

Thursday

May 9

WHAT, then, would anybody have you dress yourself out to the utmost? By no means, except in those things where our nature requires it; in reason, principles, actions; but, in our persons, only as far as neatness, as far as not to give offence. But if you hear that it is not right to wear purple, you must go, I suppose, and roll your cloak in the mud, or tear it.— "But where should I have a fine cloak?" — You have water, man; wash it. "What an amiable youth is here! How worthy this old man to love and be loved!" — A fit person to be trusted with the instruction of our sons and daughters, and attended by young people, as occasion may require — to read them lectures on a dunghill! Every deviation proceeds from something human, but this approaches very nearly towards being not human.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §11. ¶5.

Wednesday

May 8

USE thyself even unto those things that thou dost at first despair of. For the left hand we see, which for the most part lieth idle because not used; yet doth it hold the bridle with more strength than the right, because it hath been used unto it.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book xii. 5.

REMEMBER that you are an actor in a drama, of such a kind as the author pleases to make it. If short, of a short one; if long, of a long one. If it be his pleasure you should act a poor man, a cripple, a governor, or a private person, see that you act it naturally. For this is your business, to act well the character assigned you; to choose it, is another's.

EPICTETUS. MANUAL. 17.

Tuesday

May 7

WILL this querulousness, this murmuring, this complaining and dissembling never be at an end? What, then, is it that troubleth thee? Doth any new thing happen unto thee? What dost thou so wonder at ? At the cause, or the matter? Behold either by itself, is either of that weight and moment indeed? And besides these, there is not anything. But thy duty towards the 'gods also, it is time that thou shouldst acquit thyself of it with more goodness and simplicity.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book ix. 35.

MANY of those things that trouble and straighten thee, it is in thy power to cut off, as wholly depending from mere conceit and opinion, and then thou shalt have room enough.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book ix. 3.

Monday

May 6

ONLY give any of us that you please some illiterate person for an antagonist, and he will not find out how to treat him. But when he hath a little moved the man, if he happens to answer beside the purpose, he knows not how to deal with him any further; but either reviles or laughs at him, and says, "He is an illiterate fellow; there is no making anything of him." Yet a guide, when he perceives his charge going out of the way, doth not revile and ridicule and then leave him; but leads him into the right path. Do you also show your antagonist the truth, and you will see that he will follow. But till you do show it, do not ridicule him; but rather be sensible of your own incapacity.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §12. ¶1.

Sunday

May 5

WHEN children come to us clapping their hands and saying: "To-morrow is the good feast of Saturn," do we tell them that good doth not consist in such things? By no means: but we clap our hands along with them. Thus, when you are unable to convince anyone, consider him as a child, and clap your hands with him; or if you will not do that, at least hold your tongue.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §29. ¶5.

I ONCE saw a person weeping and embracing the knees of Epaphroditus, and deploring his hard fortune that he had not £50,000 left. What said Epaphroditus, then? Did he laugh at him, as we should do? No; but cried out with astonishment: "Poor man! How could you be silent? How could you bear it?"

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §26. ¶2.

Saturday

May 4

MY friend Heraclitus, in a trifling suit about a little estate at Rhodes, after having proved to the judges that his cause was good, when he came to the conclusion of his speech, "I will not entreat you," says he, "nor care what judgment you give: for it is rather you who are to be judged than I." And thus he lost his suit. What need was there of this? Be content not to entreat: do not tell them, too, that you will not entreat, unless it be a proper time to provoke the judges designedly, as in the case of Socrates. But if you too are preparing such a speech, what do you wait for? Why do you submit to be tried? For if you wish to be hanged, have patience, and the gibbet will come. But if you choose rather to submit, and make your defence as well as you can, all the rest is to be ordered accordingly: with a due regard, however, to the preservation of your own character.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §2. ¶3.

Friday

May 3

WHAT are you doing, man? You contradict yourself every day, and yet you will not give up these paltry cavils. When you eat, where do you carry your hand? To your mouth, or to your eye? When you bathe, where do you go? Do you ever call a kettle a dish; or a spoon, a spit? If I were a servant to one of these gentlemen, were it at the hazard of being flayed every day, I would plague him. "Throw some oil into the bath, boy." I would take pickle and pour upon his head. "What is this?" Really, sir, an appearance struck me so perfectly alike, as not to be distinguished from oil. "Give me the soup." I would carry him a dish full of vinegar. "Did not I ask for the soup?" Yes, sir, this is the soup. "Is not this vinegar?" Why so, more than soup? "Take it and smell to it; take it and taste it." How do you know, then, but our senses deceive us? If I had three or four fellow-servants to join with me, I would make him either choke with passion and burst or change his opinions. But now they insult us by making use of the gifts of nature, while in words they destroy them. Grateful and modest men, truly!

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §20. ¶6.

Thursday

May 2

I MAY be at a loss, perhaps, to give a reason how sensation is performed; whether it be diffused universally, or reside in a particular part; for I find difficulties that shock me in each case; but, that you and I are not the same person, I very exactly know.

How so?

Why, I never, when I have a mind to swallow anything, carry it to your mouth, but my own. I never, when I wanted to take a loaf, took a brush; but went directly to the loaf, as fit to answer my purpose. And do you yourselves, who deny all evidence of the senses, act any otherwise? Who of you, when he intended to go into a bath, ever went into a mill?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §27. ¶2.

Wednesday

May 1

IN parties of conversation, avoid a frequent and excessive mention of your own actions and dangers. For, however agreeable it may be to yourself to mention the risks you have run, it is not equally agreeable to others to hear your adventures. Avoid, likewise, an endeavour to excite laughter. For this is a slippery point, which may throw you into vulgar manners, and, besides, may be apt to lessen you in the esteem of your acquaintance. Approaches to indecent discourse are likewise dangerous. Whenever, therefore, anything of this sort happens, if there be a proper opportunity, rebuke him who makes advances that way; or, at least, by silence and blushing and a forbidding look, show yourself to be displeased by such talk.

EPICTETUS. MANUAL. 33.

Thursday

January 31

I AM persuaded there must be someone among you who sit here that feels secret pangs of impatience, and says: "When will such a difficulty come to my share as hath now fallen to his? Must I sit wasting my life in a corner when I might be crowned at Olympia? When will anyone bring the news of such a combat for me?" Such should be the disposition of you all. Even among the gladiators of Caesar there are some who bear it very ill, that they are not brought upon the stage and matched; and who offer vows to God, and address the officers, begging to fight. And will none among you appear such? I would willingly take a voyage on purpose to see how a champion of mine acts; how he treats his subject. "I do not choose such a subject," say you. Is it in your power, then, to take what subject you choose? Such a body is given you; such parents, such brothers, such a country, and such a rank in it; and then you come to me and say: "Change my subject." Besides, have not you abilities to manage that which is given you?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §29. ¶6.

Wednesday

January 30

WHAT, then, ought each of us to say upon every difficult occasion? "It was for this that I exercised, it was for this that I prepared myself." God says to you, Give me a proof if you have gone through the preparatory combats, according to rule; if you have followed a proper diet, a proper exercise; if you have obeyed your master; and after this, do you faint at the very time of action? Now is the proper time for a fever—bear it well; for thirst, bear it well; for hunger, bear it well. Is it not in your power? Who shall restrain you? A physician may restrain you from drinking, but he cannot restrain you from bearing your thirst well. He may restrain you from eating, but he cannot restrain you from bearing hunger well.—But I cannot follow my studies.—And for what end do you follow them, wretch? Is it not that you may be prosperous? That you may be constant? That you may think and act conformably to nature? What restrains you, but that in a fever you may preserve your ruling faculty conformable to nature? Here is the proof of the matter. Here is the trial of the philosopher; for a fever is a part of life, just as a walk, a voyage, or a journey.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §10. ¶1.

Tuesday

January 29

DIFFICULTIES are the things that show what men are. For the future, on any difficulty, remember that God, like a master of exercise, has engaged you with a rough antagonist. For what end? That you may be a conqueror like one in the Olympic games, and it cannot be without toil. No man, in my opinion, has a more advantageous difficulty on his hands than you have; provided you will but use it as an athletic champion doth his antagonist.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §24. ¶1.

Monday

January 28

WHENEVER, therefore, anyone makes his interest to consist in the same thing with sanctity, virtue, his country, parents, and friends, all these are secured; but wherever they are made to interfere, friends, and country, and family, and justice itself, all give way, borne down by the weight of self-interest. For wherever I and mine are placed, thither must every animal gravitate. If in body, that will sway us; if in choice, that; if in externals, these. If, therefore, I be placed in a right choice, then only I shall be a friend, a son, or a father, such as I ought. For in that case it will be for my interest to preserve the faithful, the modest, the patient, the abstinent, the beneficent character; to keep the relations of life inviolate. But, if I place myself in one thing, and virtue in another, the doctrine of Epicurus will stand its ground, That virtue is nothing, or mere opinion.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §22. ¶2.

Sunday

January 27

IF thou shalt find anything in this mortal life better than righteousness, than truth, temperance, fortitude, and in general better than a mind contented both with those things which according to right and reason she doth, and in those, which without her will and knowledge happen unto thee by the Providence: If I say, thou canst find out anything better than this; apply thyself unto it with thy whole heart.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book iii. 7.

BUT who ever came into the world without an innate idea of good and evil, fair and base, becoming and unbecoming, happiness and misery, proper and improper, what ought to be done and what not to be done?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §11. ¶1.

Saturday

January 26

DO all things as becometh the Disciple of Antoninus Pius. Remember his resolute constancy in things that were done by him according to reason, his equability in all things, his sanctity; the cheerfulness of his countenance, his sweetness, and how free he was from all vainglory; how careful to come to the true and exact knowledge of matters in hand, and how he would by no means give over till he did fully and plainly understand the whole state of the business; and how patiently, and without any contestation he would bear with them, that did unjustly condemn him: how he would never be overhasty in anything, nor give ear to slanders and false accusations, but examine and observe with best diligence the several actions and dispositions of men. Again, how he was no backbiter, nor easily frighted, nor suspicious, and in his language free from all affectation and curiosity: and how easily he would content himself with few things, as lodging, bedding, clothing, and ordinary nourishment, and attendance. How able to endure labour, how patient: his uniformity and constancy in matter of friendship. How he would bear with them that with all boldness and liberty opposed his opinions; and even rejoice if any man could better advise him: and lastly, how religious he was without superstition. All these things of him remember, that whensoever thy last hour shall come upon thee, it may find thee, as it did him, ready for it in the possession of a good conscience.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book vi. 28.

Friday

January 25

NOTHING is meaner than the love of pleasure, the love of gain, and insolence. Nothing is nobler than magnanimity, meekness, and goodnature.

EPICTETUS. FRAGMENTS. 46.

IN my Father, I observed his meekness; his constancy without wavering in those things, which after a due examination and deliberation, he had determined. How free from all vanity he carried himself in matter of honour and dignity, (as they are esteemed ) his laboriousness, and assiduity, his readiness to hear any man, that had aught to say, tending to any common good: how generally and impartially he would give every man his due; his skill and knowledge, when rigour or extremity, or when remissness or moderation was in season.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book i. 13.

Thursday

January 24

FROM Claudius Maximus I learnt in all things to endeavour to have power of myself, and in nothing to be carried about; to be cheerful and courageous in all sudden chances and accidents, as in sicknesses: to love mildness, and moderation, and gravity: and to do my business, whatsoever it be, thoroughly, and without querulousness. Whatsoever he said, all men believed him that as he spake, so he thought, and whatsoever he did, that he did it with a good intent. His manner was, never to wonder at anything; never to be in haste, and yet never slow: nor to be perplexed, or dejected, or at any time unseemly, or excessively to laugh: nor to be angry, or suspicious, but ever ready to do good, and to forgive, and to speak truth; and all this, as one that seemed rather of himself to have been straight and right, than ever to have been rectified, or redressed: neither was there any man that ever thought himself undervalued by him, or that could find in his heart, to think himself a better man than he. He would also be very pleasant and gracious.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book i. 12.

Wednesday

January 23

OF my Grandfather Verus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. From the fame and memory of him that begot me I have learned both shamefastness and manlike behaviour. Of my Mother I have learned to be religious, and bountiful; and to forbear, not only to do, but to intend any evil; to content myself with a spare diet, and to fly all such excess as is incidental to great wealth. Of my great Grandfather, both to frequent public schools and Auditories, and to get me good and able Teachers at home; and that I ought not to think much, if upon such occasions, I were at excessive charges.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book i. 1.

Tuesday

January 22

UP and down, from one age to another, go the ordinary things of the world; being still the same. And either of every thing in particular before it come to pass, the mind of the Universe doth consider with itself and deliberate: (and if so, then submit for shame unto the determination of such an excellent Understanding): or once for all it did resolve upon all things in general; and since that, whatsoever happens, happens by a necessary consequence, and all things indivisibly in a manner and inseparably hold one of another. In sum, either there is a God, and then all is well; or if all things go by chance and fortune, yet must thou use thine own providence in those things that concern thee properly; and then art thou well.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book vii. 11.

Monday

January 21

THE school of a philosopher is a surgery. You are not to go out of it with pleasure, but with pain: for you come there not in health; but one of you had a dislocated shoulder, another an abscess, a third a fistula, a fourth the headache. And am I, then, to sit uttering pretty trifling thoughts and little exclamations that, when you have praised me, you may each of you go away with the same dislocated shoulder, the same aching head, the same fistula, and the same abscess that you brought? And is it for this that young men are to travel? And do they leave their parents, their friends, their relations, and their estates that they may praise you while you are uttering little exclamations?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §24. ¶2.

Sunday

January 20

EVERY great faculty is dangerous to a beginner. Study first how to live with a person in sickness, that in time you may know how to live with one in health.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §24. ¶2.

IF you have an earnest desire of attaining to philosophy, prepare yourself from the very first to be laughed at, to be sneered by the multitude, to hear them say, "He is returned to us a philosopher all at once," and "Whence this supercilious look?" Now, for your part, do not have a supercilious look indeed; but keep steadily to those things which appear best to you as one appointed by God to this station. For remember that, if you adhere to the same point, those very persons who at first ridiculed will afterwards admire you. But if you are conquered by them, you will incur a double ridicule.

EPICTETUS. MANUAL. iii. 2, 3.

Saturday

January 19

WHY do you say nothing to me, then?

I have only this to say to you: That whoever is ignorant of what he is, and wherefore he was born, and in what kind of a world, and in what society; what things are good, and what evil; what fair, and what base: who understands neither discourse nor demonstration; nor what is true nor what is false; nor is able to distinguish between them: such a one will neither exert his desires, nor aversions, nor pursuits, conformably to nature; he will neither intend, nor assent, nor deny, nor suspend his judgment conformably to nature; but will wander up and down entirely deaf and blind, supposing himself to be somebody, while he is in reality nobody. Is there anything new in all this? Is not this ignorance the cause of all the errors that have happened from the very original of mankind?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §24. ¶2.

Friday

January 18

IN the same manner as we exercise ourselves against sophistical questions, we should exercise ourselves likewise in relation to such appearances as every day occur, for these two offer questions to us. Such a one's son is dead. What do you think of it? Answer: it is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — Such a one is disinherited by his father. What do you think of it? It is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — Caesar hath condemned him. This is independent on choice, it is not an evil. — He hath been afflicted by it. This is dependent on choice, it is an evil. — He hath supported it bravely. This is dependent on choice, it is a good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §8. ¶1.

Thursday

January 17

OF things that are external, happen what will to that which can suffer by external accidents. Those things that suffer let them complain themselves, if they will; as for me, as long as I conceive no such thing, as that that which is happened is evil, I have no hurt; and it is in my power not to conceive any such thing.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book vii. 11.

AT ANY things there be, which oftentimes insensibly trouble and vex thee, as not armed against them with patience, because they go not ordinarily under the name of pains, which indeed are of the same nature as pain; as to slumber unquietly, to suffer heat, to want appetite: when therefore any of these things make thee discontented, check thyself with these words: "Now hath pain given thee the foil: thy courage hath failed thee."
 
MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book vii. 36.

Wednesday

January 16

IN short, then, remember this, that whatever external to your own choice you esteem, you destroy that choice. And not only power is external to it, but the being out of power too; not only business, but leisure too. — "Then, must I live in this tumult now?" — What do you call a tumult? — "A multitude of people." — And where is the hardship? Suppose it is the Olympic games. Think it a public assembly. There, too, some bawl out one thing, some do another; some push the rest. The baths are crowded. Yet who of us is not pleased with these assemblies, and doth not grieve to leave them? Do not be hard to please, and squeamish at what happens. "Vinegar is disagreeable (says one), for it is sour. Honey is disagreeable (says a second), for it disorders my constitution. I do not like vegetables, says a third. Thus, too (say others), I do not like retirement; it is a desert: I do not like a crowd; it is a tumult." — Why, if things are so disposed that you are to live alone, or with few, call this condition a repose, and make use of it as you ought.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §2. ¶3.

Tuesday

January 15

DO but remember the general rules. What is mine? What not mine? What is allotted me? What is the will of God, that I should do now? What is not His will? A little while ago it was His will that you should be at leisure, should talk with yourself, write about these things, read, hear, prepare yourself. You have had sufficient time for this. At present He says to you, "Come now to the combat. Show us what you have learned, how you have wrestled." How long would you exercise by yourself? It is now the time to show whether you are of the number of those champions who merit victory, or of those who go about the world, conquered in all the games round. Why, then, are you out of humour? There is no combat without a tumult. There must be many preparatory exercises, many acclamations, many masters, many spectators.

EPICTETUS. MANUAL. iii. 2, 3.

Monday

January 14

AND it is impracticable, as well as tedious, to undertake the very thing that Jupiter himself could not do: to convince all mankind what things are really good and evil. Is this granted you? The only thing granted you is to convince yourself, and you have not yet done that; and do you, notwithstanding, undertake to convince others? Why, who hath lived so long with you as you have with yourself? Who is so likely to have faith in you, in order to be convinced by you, as you in yourself? Who is a better wisher, or a nearer friend to you, than you to yourself? How is it, then, that you have not yet convinced yourself? Should not you now turn these things every way in your thoughts ? What you were studying was this: to learn to be exempt from grief, perturbation, and meanness, and to be free. Have not you heard, then, that the only way that leads to this is to give up what doth not depend on choice: to withdraw from it, and confess that it belongs to others? What kind of thing, then, is another's opinion about you? — "Independent on choice." Is it nothing, then, to you? — "Nothing." While you are still piqued and disturbed about it, then, do you think that you are convinced concerning good and evil?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §6. ¶1.

Sunday

January 13

THEN hath a man attained to the estate of perfection in his life and conversation, when he so spends every day, as if it were his last day.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book vii. 40.

WHATSOEVER thou dost affect, whatsoever thou dost project, so do, and so project all, as one who, for aught thou knowest, may at this very present depart out of this life.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book ii. 8.

AS it is impossible to assent to an evident falsehood, or to deny an evident truth, so it is impossible to abstain from an evident good.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §7. ¶1.

EVIDENT good at first sight attracts, and evil repels. Nor will the soul any more reject an evident appearance of good than they will Caesar's coin.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §3. ¶2.

Saturday

January 12

THAT which is chief in every man's constitution, is, that he intend the common good. The second is, that he yield not to any lusts and motions of the flesh. For it is the part and privilege of the reasonable and intellective faculty, that she can so bound herself, as that neither the sensitive, nor the appetitive faculties, may not anywise prevail upon her. For both these are brutish. And therefore over both she challengeth mastery, and cannot anywise endure, if in her right temper, to be subject unto either.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book viii. 41.

Friday

January 11

WHAT was it, that waked Epicurus from his sleep, and compelled him to write what he did? What else but that which is of all others the most powerful in mankind, nature; which draws everyone, however unwilling and reluctant, to its own purposes? For since, says she, you think that there is no relation between mankind, write this doctrine, and leave it for the use of others, and break your sleep upon that account; and, by your own practice, confute your own principles. Do we say that Orestes was roused from sleep by the agitation of the Furies; and was not Epicurus waked by Furies more cruel and avenging, which would not suffer him to rest, but compelled him to divulge his own evils, as wine and madness do the priests of Cybele? So strong and unconquerable a thing is human nature! For how can a vine have the properties not of a vine, but of an olive-tree? Or an olive-tree not those of an olive-tree, but of a vine? It is impossible. It is inconceivable. Neither, therefore, is it possible for a human creature entirely to lose human affections. But even those who have undergone a mutilation cannot have their inclinations also mutilated: and so Epicurus, when he had mutilated all the offices of a man, of a master of a family, of a citizen, and of a friend, did not mutilate the inclinations of humanity. ... What a misfortune is it when anyone, after having received from nature standards and rules for the knowledge of truth, doth not strive to add to these, and make up their deficiencies; but, on the contrary, endeavours to take away and destroy whatever truth may be known even by them.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §20. ¶3.

Thursday

January 10

NO object can of itself beget any opinion in us, neither can come to us, but stands without still and quiet; but we ourselves beget, and as it were print in ourselves opinions concerning them. Now it is in our power, not to print them; and if they creep in and lurk in some corner, it is in our power to wipe them off. Remember moreover, that this care and circumspection of thine, is to continue but for a while, and then thy life will be at an end. And what should hinder, but that thou mayst do well with all these things? For if they be according to nature, rejoice in them, and let them be pleasing and acceptable unto thee. But if they be against Nature, seek thou that which is according to thine own Nature, and whether it be for thy credit or no, use all possible speed for the attainment of it: for no man ought to be blamed, for seeking his own good and happiness.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book xi. 15.

Wednesday

January 9

WELL then: each of the animals is constituted either for food, or husbandry, or to produce milk, and the rest of them for some other like use; and for these purposes what need is there of understanding the appearances of things, and being able to make distinctions concerning them? But God hath introduced man as a spectator of Himself and His works; and not only as a spectator, but an interpreter of them. It is therefore shameful that man should begin and end where irrational creatures do. He is indeed rather to begin there, but to end where nature itself hath fixed our end; and that is in contemplation and understanding, and in a scheme of life comformable to nature.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §6. ¶4.

Tuesday

January 8

WHY should I grieve myself; who never did willingly grieve any other! One thing rejoiceth one, and another thing another. As for me, this is my joy; if my understanding be right and sound, as neither averse from any man, nor refusing any of those things, which as a man I am subject unto; if I can look upon all things in the world meekly and kindly; accept all things, and carry myself towards everything according to the true worth of the thing itself.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book viii. 41.

WHEN one consulted him, how he might persuade his brother to forbear treating him ill: Philosophy, answered Epictetus, doth not promise to procure anything external to man, otherwise it would admit something beyond its proper subject-matter. For the subject-matter of a carpenter is wood; of a statuary, brass: and so of the art of living, the subject-matter is each person's own life.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §15. ¶1.

Monday

January 7

YOU say theorems are useless. To whom? To such as apply them ill. For medicines for the eyes are not useless to those who apply them when and as they ought. Fomentations are not useless; poisers are not useless; but they are useless to some, and, on the contrary, useful to others. If you should ask me now, Are syllogisms useful? I answer, that they are useful; and, if you please, I will show you how. "Will they be of service to me, then?” — Why, did you ask, man, whether they would be useful to you, or in general? If anyone in a dysentery should ask me whether acids be useful, I answer. They are. "Are they useful for me, then?" — I say. No. First try to get the flux stopped, and the exulceration healed. Do you, too, first get your ulcers healed; your fluxes stopped. Quiet your mind, and bring it free from distraction to the school, and then you will know what is the force of reasoning.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §21, ¶3.

Sunday

January 6

THE natural properties, and privileges of a reasonable soul are; That she seeth herself; that she can order, and compose herself: that she makes herself as she will herself: that she reaps her own fruits whatsoever, whereas plants, trees, unreasonable creatures, what fruit soever (be it either fruit properly, or analogically only) they bear, they bear them unto others, and not to themselves. Again; Whensoever, and wheresoever, sooner or later, her life doth end, she hath her own end nevertheless. For it is not with her, as with dancers, and players, who if they be interrupted in any part of their action, the whole action must needs be imperfect: but she in what part of time or action soever she be surprised, can make that which she hath in her hand whatsoever it be, complete and full, so that she may depart with that comfort, "I have lived; neither want I anything of that which properly did belong unto me."

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book xi. 1.

Saturday

January 5

IN every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit; but not having thought of the consequences, when some of them appear you will shamefully desist. “I would conquer at the Olympic games." But consider what precedes and follows, and then, if it be for your advantage, engage in the affair. You must conform to rules, submit to a diet, refrain from dainties; exercise your body, whether you choose it or not, at a stated hour, in heat and cold; you must drink no cold water, nor sometimes even wine. In a word, you must give yourself up to your master, as to a physician. Then, in the combat, you may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your ankle, swallow abundance of dust, be whipped, and, after all, lose the victory. When you have reckoned up all this, if your inclination still holds, set about the combat. Otherwise, take notice, you will behave like children, who sometimes play wrestlers, sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes act a tragedy, when they happen to have seen and admired these shows. Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a gladiator, now a philosopher, then an orator; but with your whole soul, nothing at all. Like an ape, you mimic all you see, and one thing after another is sure to please you, but is out of favour as soon as it becomes familiar. For you have never entered upon anything considerately, nor after having viewed the whole matter on all sides, or made any scrutiny into it, but rashly, and with a cold inclination.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §15, ¶1.

Friday

January 4

THIS is the nature of our proceedings. As in a crowded fair the horses and cattle are brought to be sold, and the greatest part of men come either to buy or sell; but there are a few who come only to look at the fair, and inquire how it is carried on; and why in that manner; and who appointed it; and for what purpose: thus, in the fair of the world, some, like cattle, trouble themselves about nothing but fodder. For as to all you who busy yourselves about possessions and farms and domestics and public posts, these things are nothing else but mere fodder. But there are some few men among the crowd who are fond of looking on and considering, “What then, after all, is the world? Who governs it? Hath it no governor? How is it possible, when neither a city nor a house can remain ever so short a time without someone to govern and take care of it, that this vast and beautiful system should be administered in a fortuitous and disorderly manner? Is there then a governor? What sort of one is he? And how doth he govern; and what are we who are under him; And for what designed ? Have we some connection and relation to him; or none?" In this manner are the few affected; and apply themselves only to view the fair and then depart.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §14, ¶4.

Thursday

January 3


BETIMES in the morning say to thyself: This day I shall have to do with an idle curious man, with an unthankful man, a railer, a crafty, false, or an envious man; an unsociable uncharitable man. All these ill qualities have happened unto them, through ignorance of that which is truly good and truly bad. But I that understand the nature of that which is good, that it only is to be desired, and of that which is bad, that it only is truly odious and shameful: who know moreover, that this transgressor, whosoever he be, is my kinsman, not by the same blood and seed, but by participation of the same reason, and of the same divine particle; How can I either be hurt by any of those, since it is not in their power to make me incur anything that is truly reproachful? or angry, and ill affected towards him, who by nature is so near unto me? for we are all born to be fellow-workers, as the feet, the hands, and the eye-lids; as the rows of the upper and under teeth: for such therefore to be in opposition, is against nature; and what is it to chafe at, and to be averse from, but to be in opposition?

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book i. 15.

Wednesday

January 2


IN the morning when thou findest thyself unwilling to rise, consider with thyself presently, it is to go about a man's work that I am stirred up. Am I then yet unwilling to go about that, for which I myself was born and brought forth into this world? Or was I made for this, to lay me down, and make much of myself in a warm bed?

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book v. I.

WHEN thou art hard to be stirred up and awaked out of thy sleep, admonish thyself and call to mind, that to perform actions tending to the common good is that which is thine own proper constitution, and that which the nature of man doth require. But to sleep, is common to unreasonable creatures also.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book viii. II.

NOT to be slack and negligent; or loose, and wanton in thy actions, nor contentious, and troublesome in thy conversation, nor to rove and wander in thy fancies and imaginations. Not basely to contract thy soul; nor boisterously to sally out with it, or, furiously to launch out as it were, nor ever to want employment.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book viii. 19.

Tuesday

January 1

IN the morning as soon as thou art awaked, when thy judgment, before either thy affections, or external objects have wrought upon it, is yet most free and impartial: put this question to thyself, whether if that which is right and just be done, the doing of it by thyself, or by others when thou art not able thyself, be a thing material or no. For sure it is not. And as for these that keep such a life, and stand so much upon the praises, or dispraises of other men, hast thou forgotten what manner of men they be: that such and such upon their beds, and such at their board: what their ordinary actions are: what they pursue after, and what they fly from: what thefts and rapines they commit, if not with their hands and feet, yet with that more precious part of theirs, their minds: which (would it but admit of them) might enjoy faith, modesty, truth, justice, a good spirit.

MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book x. 15.