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Echoes of the Past

The meditations and aphorisms of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher king, bear the indelible stamp of truth, which the lapse of seventeen hundred years has but accentuated. No words of ours can add to the beauty and nobility of the following excerpts.

"Take notice that all events turn out justly, and that if you observe nicely, you will not only perceive a connection between causes and effects, but a sovereign distribution of justice, which presides in the administration, and gives everything its due. Observe then, as you have begun, and let all your actions answer the character of a good man."

"Do not suffer your passions to make a puppet of you. Confine your care to the present. Look through that which happens either to yourself or another. Distinguish the parts of your subject, and divide them into the causal and material element. Think upon your last hour, and do not trouble yourself about other people's faults, but leave them with those that must answer for them."

"Look inwards, for you have a lasting fountain of happiness at home that will always bubble up if you will but dig for it."

"Think nothing for your interest which makes you break your word, quit your modesty, hate, suspect, or curse any person, or inclines you to any practice which will not bear the light and enable you to look the world in the face. For he that values his mind and the worship of his divinity before all other things, need act no tragic part, laments under no misfortunes, and wants neither solitude nor company; and which is still more, he will neither fly from life nor pursue it, but is perfectly indifferent about the length or shortness of the time in which his soul shall be encompassed by his body."

"Everyone that does an ill action is really out of his way, and misses his mark, though he may not know it."

"If you will be governed by reason, and manage what lies before you with industry, vigor, and temper; if you will not run out after new distraction, but keep your divinity pure, even as though you must at once render it up again, your mind staunch and well disciplined, as if this trial of behavior were your last; and if you will but cleave to this, and be true to the best of yourself fearing and desiring nothing, but living up to your nature, standing boldly by the truth of your word, and satisfied therewith, then you will be a happy man. But the whole world cannot hinder you from so doing."

"Stand firm like a rock, against which though the waves batter, yet it stands unmoved and they fall to rest at last. 'How unfortunate has this accident made me!' cries such an one. Not at all. He should rather say, 'What a happy mortal am I for being unconcerned upon this occasion, for being neither crushed by the present, nor afraid of what is to come.' ...When anything grows troublesome, recollect this maxim: this accident is not a misfortune, but bearing it well turns it to an advantage"

"I do my duty, that is enough. As for other things, I shall never be disturbed about them. For they are either without life or without reason, or they have lost their way and cannot find it."

"Accustom yourself, therefore, to think upon nothing but what you could freely reveal, if the question were put to you; so that if your soul were thus laid open, there would be nothing appear but what was sincere, good-natured, and public-spirited—not so much as one voluptuous or luxurious fancy, nothing of hatred, envy, or unreasonable suspicion, nor aught else which you could not bring to the light without blushing."

"You are just taking leave of the world, yet you have not done with unnecessary desires. Are you not yet above disturbance and suspicion, and fully convinced that nothing without can hurt you? You have not yet learned to be friends with everybody, and that to be an honest man is the only way to be a wise one."

"You may be always successful if you do but set out well, and let your thoughts and practice proceed upon right method. There are two properties and privileges common to the soul of God and man and all rational beings. The one is, not to be hindered by anything external; the other, to make virtuous intention and action their supreme satisfaction, and not so much as to desire anything further."

"The best provision for a happy life is to dissect everything, view its own nature, and divide it into matter and form. To practice honesty in good earnest, and speak truth from the very soul of you. What remains but to live easy and cheerful, and crowd one good action so close to another that there may not be the least empty space between them."

"Let peoples' tongues and actions be what they will, my business is to be good."

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Thomas W. Allen

  • Brother of author James Allen
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