Meditations: The Annotated Edition


Meditations: The Annotated Edition


The only true good for Stoics was virtue, and the primary virtues, from which the others were derived, were the four Marcus lists [justice, honesty, moderation and courage], except that “prudential wisdom” replaces Marcus’s “honesty”, as at 5.12. All other so-called goods, such as health, wealth, and popularity, are “indifferents.” — p. 54

“Reservation” is a technical term within Stoicism. It refers to the fact that future-directed impulses, even rational impulses, should always be accompanied by a conditional, because it is always possible for things to go wrong. […] In this way, a wise man’s impulses are never thwarted, because he was already expecting impediments. […] It might seem weak to let your original intention be deflected like this, but what was important to the Stoics was not what we do but the moral attitude with which we do it. As Epictetus puts it at Handbook 4: “This [the thwarted action I originally set out to do] wasn’t the only thing I wanted; I also wanted to keep my will in accord with nature”. — p. 66

So what should one take seriously? Only the following: a just mind, socially useful actions, speech that only ever tells the truth, and the ability to welcome everything that happens as necessary, as comprehensible by reason, and as flowing from an equally rational original source. — p. 87

Be like a headland: the waves beat against it continuously, but it stands fast and around it the boiling water dies down. “It’s my rotten luck that this has happened to me.” On the contrary, “It’s my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I still feel no distress, since I’m unbruised by the present and unconcerned about the future.” What happened could have happened to anyone, but not everyone could have carried on without letting it distress him. So why regard the incident as a piece of bad luck rather than seeing your avoidance of distress as a piece of good luck? […] So then, whenever something happens that might cause you distress, remember to rely on this principle: this is not bad luck, but bearing it valiantly is good luck. — p. 93

There are two reasons, then, why you should gladly accept whatever happens to you. First, because the experience happened to you, was prescribed for you, and was the product of a web somehow woven just for you way back in time, out of the most ancient causes. Second, because, for the directing principle of the universe, even what happens to each of us as individuals plays a part in its advancement, perfection, […] and its very preservation. After all, any whole is impaired if you cut the connection and continuity of its parts to any extent at all, and the same goes if you cut the chain of its causes. — p. 102

Don’t be anxious about the future. You’ll come to it (if you must), equipped with the same reason that you apply now to the present. — p. 149

In itself, the command center has no needs unless it creates one for itself, and it is therefore unperturbed and unhindered, unless it disturbs and hinders itself. — p. 152

Epictetus used to say that when you kiss your child you should silently tell it: “Tomorrow you will die.” “But that’s an inauspicious thing to say.” “No,” he says, “it’s not at all inauspicious, but it expresses a natural process. Otherwise, it would be inauspicious to talk of wheat being harvested.” — p. 273