The duration of a man’s life is as a point; the substance of it ever flowing, the sense obscure; and the whole composition of the body tending to decay. His soul is a restless vortex, fortune uncertain, and fame doubtful; in a word, as a rushing stream so are all things belonging to the body; as a dream, or as a smoke, so are all that belong unto the soul. Life is a warfare, and a sojourn in a foreign land. Fame after life is nothing more than oblivion.
What is it then that will guide man? One thing alone: philosophy. And philosophy consists in this, for a man to preserve that inner genius or divine spark which is within him, from violence and injuries, and above all pains or pleasures; never to do anything either without purpose, or falsely, or hypocritically: wholly to depend from himself and his own proper actions: all things that happen unto him to embrace contentedly, as coming from Him from whom he himself also came; and above all things, with all meekness and a calm cheerfulness, to expect death, as being nothing else but the dissolution of those elements, of which every living being is composed.
And if the elements themselves suffer nothing by this their perpetual conversion of one into another, that dissolution, and alteration, which is so common unto all, why should it be feared by any? Is not this according to nature? But nothing that is according to nature can be evil.
Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, Book II, Section 15
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I keep the Emperor’s Handbook at my bedside.