Sunday, 16 February 2014

Wabi-Sabi and spiritual exercise

The explicit formulation of an aesthetics in the Western sense only started in Japan a little over two hundred years ago. But, by the Japanese aesthetic we tend to mean, not this modern study, but a set of ancient ideals that include wabi (transient and stark beauty), sabi (the beauty of natural patina and aging), and yûgen (profound grace and subtlety). These ideals, and others, underpin much of Japanese cultural and aesthetic norms on what is considered tasteful or beautiful. Thus, while seen as a philosophy in Western societies, the concept of aesthetics in Japan is seen as an integral part of daily life.

The Japanese aesthetic ideals are most heavily influenced by Buddhism. In the Buddhist tradition, all things are considered as either evolving from or dissolving into nothingness. Koren says that this 'nothingness' is not empty space. It is, rather, a space of potentiality. Let me use an analogy, if we take the seas as representing potential then each thing is like a wave arising from it and returning to it. There are no permanent waves. There are no perfect waves. At no point is a wave complete, even at its peak. Nature is seen as a dynamic whole that is to be admired and appreciated. 

Wabi-sabi is the aesthetic defined as the beauty of things "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete" (Koren, below). Things in bud, or things in decay, as it were, are more evocative of wabi-sabi than things in full bloom because, like the falling cherry blossom, they suggest the transience of things. As things come and go, they show signs of their coming or going and these signs are considered to be beautiful. In this, beauty is an altered state of consciousness and can be seen in the mundane and simple. The signatures of nature can be so subtle that it takes a quiet mind and a cultivated eye to discern them. 

In Zen philosophy there are seven aesthetic principles for achieving Wabi Sabi:
Fukinsei: asymmetry, irregularity; 
Kanso: simplicity; 
Koko: basic, weathered; 
Shizen: without pretense, natural; 
Yugen: subtly profound grace, not obvious; 
Datsuzoku: unbounded by convention, free; 
Seijaku: tranquility.

Each of these things are found in nature but can suggest virtues of human character and appropriateness of behaviour. This, in turn suggests that virtue and civility can be instilled through an appreciation of, and practice in, the arts. Hence, aesthetic ideals have an ethical connotation and pervades much of the Japanese culture.

As can be seen from the above list, in the Zen tradition Yūgen is just one of the components of Wabi Sabi. Nevertheless, it is an important separate concept in traditional Japanese aesthetics and strongly informs the notion of Wabi Sabi. 

The exact translation of the word depends on the context. In the Chinese philosophical texts the term was taken from, yūgen meant "dim", "deep" or "mysterious". Yugen suggests that beyond what can be said but it is not an allusion to another world. It is about this world, this experience. All of these are portals to yugen:

" To watch the sun sink behind a flower clad hill. 
To wander on in a huge forest without thought of return.
To stand upon the shore and gaze after a boat that disappears behind distant islands.
To contemplate the flight of wild geese seen and lost among the clouds.
And, subtle shadows of bamboo on bamboo." 

(Zeami Motokiyo) 

Zeami was the originator of the dramatic art form, Noh theatre, and wrote the classic book on dramatic theory (Kadensho). He uses images of nature as a constant metaphor. For example, "snow in a silver bowl" represents "the Flower of Tranquility". Yugen is said to mean “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe… and the sad beauty of human suffering”.

Wabi, sabi, and yugen refers to a mindful approach to everyday life reminiscent of the mindfulness in the arts. 

Geidō refers to the way of the traditional Japanese arts: Noh (theater), kadō (Japanese flower arrangement), shodō (Japanese calligraphy), Sadō (Japanese tea ceremony), and yakimono (Japanese pottery). All of these ways carry an ethical and aesthetic connotation and appreciate the process of creation[9]. To introduce discipline into their training, Japanese warriors followed the example of the arts that systematized practice through prescribed forms called kata - think of the tea ceremony. Training in combat techniques incorporated the way of the arts (Geidō), practice in the arts themselves, and instilling aesthetic concepts (for example, yugen) and the philosophy of arts (geido ron). This led to combat techniques becoming known as the martial arts (even today, David Lowry shows, in the 'Sword and Brush: the spirit of the martial arts', the affinity of the martial arts with the other arts). All of these arts are a form of tacit communication and we can, and do, respond to them by appreciation of this tacit dimension.

After the introduction of Western notions in Japan, Wabi Sabi aesthetics ideals have been re-examined with Western values, by both Japanese and non-Japanese. Therefore, recent interpretations of the aesthetics ideals inevitably reflect Judeo-Christian perspectives and Western philosophy. 

Koren (below) says that “The immediate catalyst for [his] book was a widely publicized tea event in Japan. ... It suddenly dawned on me that wabi-sabi, once the preeminent high-culture Japanese aesthetic and the acknowledged centerpiece of tea, was becoming—had become?—an endangered species …”

I agree with Koren wholeheartedly and his book is an important contribution to the literature. 

Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosopher by Leonard Koren

Wabi Sabi is best thought of as looking upon nature in itself as a spiritual exercise. The photographs throughout the book are a clue as to where to look but they are not the thing itself: put the book down and go out and look.

Much of this review is taken from my contribution to Wikipedia.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Nichomachean Ethics

In this short piece, inspired by re-reading The Ethics, Aristotle (384 to 323 BCE), I intend to illustrate what ethics means and implies for Aristotle. This has a modern relevance, especially because of the development of Virtue Ethics, and needs to be pointed out as so many modern uses of the term 'ethics' unhelpfully reduce the content and scope of the term. 

In The Ethics, Aristotle sets out to examine the nature of human flourishing. Aristotle argues that human flourishing consists in the 'activity of the soul in accordance with virtue'. So what are virtues? They are precisely those principles of excellence that lead to human flourishing. In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function (telos).

Aristotle argues that it is for the sake of thriving that we do everything else - what leads to this? Just as the virtues of an axe leads to its excellence in chopping, it is the virtues of the soul that lead to human thriving. The virtues of an axe would be in something like its heft, its robustness, and in its hard edge. So what activities of the soul constitute our virtues? First, let us remind ourselves that to the ancient Greek it would be almost incomprehensible to wonder if virtue (arete) might not lead to flourishing. It would be as odd as wondering if a good heft, a robust and well secured shaft, and a hard-sharpish edge might not lead to the ability of an axe to chop well. To the ancient Greeks, it was obvious that virtues led to flourishing (if the virtues could be identified and cultivated). Hence, the Aristotelian quest is to articulate human virtues - those principles of excellence that lead to flourishing. For an axe flourishing is to chop. For a person flourishing is living up to one's full potential.

One proposal for a principle of excellance is the 'Doctrine of the Mean'. Aristotle states that a virtuous activity of the soul is one that aims for the mean or middle ground deficiency and excess. Thus, he tends to view virtue as a relative state: there are no absolutes: morality calls for judgment. This doesn't make his ideas 'Moral Relativism'. He makes an the analogy with food. He would say that for a toddler a slab of meat might be too much but for a body builder it might not be enough. The sufficiency is not in the meat but in a relationship between the properties of the meat and the particulars of the one who needs feeding. For each situation, "the mean" exists between the state of deficiency and the state of excess but this is not laid down in some pre-given measure, a measure that does not take into account the precise and individual circumstances. 

Aristotle proposes many different examples of virtues and vices, together with their mean states. There are moral virtues, such as courage and justice, and intellectual virtues, such as knowledge and wisdom. He discusses things like generosity and anger. All of this very interesting and insightful. He was aware, of course, that there are things, actions and emotions, that do not allow an actual mean state. His main point appears to be that leading a life that flourishes implies the ability to make judgements that find a balance.

For Aristotle, the virtuous person is one who is capable of observation and ratiocination (the bases of informed judgment) for only such a person can be sensitive to the situation and find the middle ground. We are imperfect and err on one side or the other. 

Aristotle says virtues have to be cultivated. Further, he says, only one who has been brought up correctly is fully capable of virtue. Thus, Aristotle argues that virtue is not a natural state; we are not born with it and can only acquire it through an enculturation that is wider than a formal education. 

A virtuous person, being properly brought up, does not have to calculate that disgusting things are disgusting - they see it straight away. There is an art to living and this are means that sometimes one must just see things straight away and at other times one contemplates the options.

Without the art of living one is likely to reduce virtue to a recipe [or Code of Conduct, or Professional Ethics] and thus miss the middle ground in some circumstances. In other words, not to be virtuous after all. Thus, to be virtuous one must act virtuously with the intention of virtue, and not just the form. To be virtuous,  amongst other things, is to be mindful and fully engaged with living.

- - - - -
I recommend the latest edition of the book by Irwin. It has a good revised translation with generous notes that include a summary of the argument of each chapter. (The Ethics, is a compilation by his son Nicomachus, or possibly the notes were dedicated to him, and thus it is called the Nicomachean Ethics.)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius contain wonderful aphorisms that have been cherished for generations. The purpose of the review is to enable to reader to better understand, and profit from, a reading the Meditations.

Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of the known world at the time but he was also known to be a philosopher even though the people of Rome knew nothing of his writings. The Meditations were not intended for publication and were given no order or title by Marcus Aurelius himself. We shall come to understand why.

Philosophy in antiquity was not topic but a way of life: a lived practice of virtues. Alongside this way of life a philosopher engaged in philosophical discourse which justified and motivated that choice of life. But, the discourse was philosophical only if it supported a personal transformation. The personal transformation is what philosophy was about. A philosopher was identified by his or her choices in life and not by what they wrote, or by the system of thought they developed.  Thus, Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher because of the way he lived: to become better.
Although not all philosophers valued philosophical discourse, for example, the Cynics, the Stoics, and other schools, thought that philosophical discourse, that was meant to have a transformational function, was an integral part of the philosophical life. They emphasised that philosophical discourse was not enough, on its own. That it was possible to develop an 'empty discourse' unrelated to a philosophical life (the peddlers of empty discourse were severely criticized by philosophers, and others). So, when a philosopher expounded on doctrine (what we today would interpret as pure theory) it was always, in its mode of expression and its end, practice. The philosopher aims to form rather than inform. This is the key to understanding the Meditations.

The "Mediations" of Marcus Aurelius were an authentic philosophical discourse: they were written by himself, about himself, and to himself, in order to establish within himself an inner discourse and a set of dispositions which would allow him to practice philosophy. He had no thought of systematic exposition of theory. The function of his writing was to 'dye his soul', or strengthen his soul for action. It is this feature of his writing that distinguishes his Meditations from modern literary genres. What were later called his "Meditations" were, in fact, spiritual exercises practiced according to Stoic traditions and according to specific methods. The surface form of this writing was given to him by this Stoic tradition and the literary conventions of his day and we must not read into the text too much about him or his psychological states (e.g we must not read into the text that Marcus Aurelius was lonely, pessimistic, despondent, doped, and such like). In reading him, we must constantly bear in mind that his writings are not an exposition of doctrine, a stream of consciousness, or his recollections. His writings were exercises. Thus, when he says of fancy food "This is the corpse of a fish", or of a fine wine "This is just some grape juice", he is not expressing distain. These statements have a definite function: they are to situate fancy food and fine wine within the perspective of universal nature and strip them of social mystique (that is strip them of their aura of heightened value). So, there is nothing autobiographical about the statements. The autobiographical aspects of his work, although real, are very subtle.

So, what are spiritual exercises? Pierre Hadot defines them "as voluntary, personal practices meant to bring about a transformation of the individual, a transformation of the self". He says elsewhere that philosophical discourse "could be presented in such a way that the disciple, as auditor, reader, or interlocutor, could make spiritual progress and transform himself within." Marcus Aurelius' Meditations are just such a discourse: they are an inner discourse where Reason strives to describe the philosophical way of life to his Soul (his true self, the breath that holds his body together as a living entity). Reason sketches out the model that Marcus must have constantly in view: the good person. The good person will act justly in the service of others, accept serenely those events which do not depend upon his or her will, and see the objective truth (strip things of their mystique). This vision represents a world view as an indivisible inner disposition. It was embodied in three rules of life by Epictetus. I will express his rules as follows:

Epictetus, Ep.ic.TEE.tus
Epictetus, Ep.ic.TEE.tus
1 Accept the world as it is,

2 Conduct yourself justly,

3 Give assent only to those things that are objective

When we talk about philosophy (or teach it), rather than live it, these rules entail the contemplation of three topics: physics, ethics, and logic. Taking about philosophy and breaking it down into these three themes is a pedagogic necessity only. Other break downs of doctrine were recommended and used too but Marcus Aurelius followed Epictetus.

By physics, the Stoics meant something like the natural world but this included what we would call theology. They thought of the world as continuous and held together by a divine rational spirit. Marcus talks about God and Gods but this is a legacy way of speaking. He believed in a divine rational spirit that generated and permeated everything. Uniquely though, Human beings are given a share of the divine rationality as their own. They remain part of the whole and to live well is to live in harmony with that whole.

Epictetus said "You are a human being, and a human being is a mortal animal that has the power of using appearances rationally. And what I mean by 'rationally' is complete conformity to Nature. The unique thing about you is the rational faculty. Adorn it and beautify it."

The essence of a philosopher is the disposition towards goodness, the love of wisdom. This indivisible inner disposition runs the risk of fading or weakening unless constantly dyed or strengthened. To dye the soul for action (to strengthen the soul) we must repeatedly render images to ourselves that are vivid and forever renewed. These images, and the careful crafting of them in literary writing, are intended to be psychologically effective and instil the principles at the foundation of the model. A shopping list of truths would NOT do the job. We must train. The philosopher must repeatedly engage in spiritual exercises that are both imaginative and discursive. In this way, the philosopher can establish an inner discourse and the profound dispositions which would enable him or her to practice concretely the three rules of life set out by Epictetus.

The themes that we find in the structure of the Meditations just are those exercise themes laid down by Epictetus. Since judgement, desire, and inclination depend upon us we can discipline them. Each maxim is carefully crafted to develop one, two, or all three topics. Each maxim is an exercise of assimilation of one or more of the three disciplines of life. The Emperor wrote about himself for himself to train himself, not to hold forth on theory, nor to 'express himself'. He was training for wisdom.

At the heart of this enterprise is the thought that "Everything is a matter of judgment" whether it is a about physics, ethics, or logic. In each case, it is always a matter of examining and criticizing the value-judgments which one brings to bear. For the Stoics, Logic (reason) penetrates the whole of conduct. So, it is perhaps helpful to bring out this thought because it is at work throughout the "Meditations". To make this notion of judgment and value-judgment clearer we need a metaphor. I will use one suggested by Chrysippus who said "Just as when your push a cylinder you have caused it to begin its movement, but you have not given it the property of rolling, so likewise an appearance will no doubt mark and imprint its form up the soul; and yet our assent will still remain free within our power". This metaphor is useful, let us develop it. I find it helpful to think of two shapes, in this case, cylinders. If one, or the other, of the objects were cones, say, then it would roll very differently but the analogy would still work.

Let us image two cylinders. The first of these we will take as the cylinder of perception (taken in its widest sense). The second, let us say, is the cylinder of judgment. The first is pushed and rolls and in its turn pushes the second and it rolls (this implies that human beings apprehend reality in terms of meanings). Now, just as the first cylinder does not get its properties from the push, nor does the second. On a larger view of this situation, the push itself does not cause the roll. The "internal causes" of the cylinder, its shape, are necessary for it to roll in the characteristic way it does. On this metaphor, we can see that the 'second' part of our soul the judging part, has established inner dispositions (the properties) that lead to assenting or declining judgements. These dispositions can be created by convention, prejudice, ignorance, or, importantly, the imposition of reason.

The 'second cylinder' is our character and because of it we are responsible for the actions that result from it. The helmsman of the soul, the superior, guiding, part of the soul (the intellect or divine part) is free to make judgments. It alone can give or refuse assent to that inner discourse which enunciates what the object of perception amounts to. The superior part of the soul is completely free.  It can, in principle, and given time, change the dispositions of the soul. We can give shape to our character. Thus, we are responsible for our character whether given to us by habit, society, or the imposition of reason.

As the cylinder analogy is intended to show, it would be wrong to regard fate as being external to agents. We should view fate as operating through agents. We are partners with the all prevading reason, working within it to bring about the history of the world as it is meant to be brought about.
The essential and unique part of a person just is this capacity for value-judgment: our rationality. Reason can guide the soul to correct action. Thus, the correct reading of the Meditations is as Marcus Aurelius' Reason exhorting or guiding his Soul on a pattern laid down by Epictetus: "What troubles people are not things, but their value-judgements about things",

  • "Get rid of the value-judgment, get rid of the 'I am hurt,' you are rid of the hurt itself." (viii.40)
  • "Everything is fruit to me which your seasons bring, O Nature. From you are all things, in you are all things, to you all things return." (iv.23) 
  • "How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life!" (xii.13) 

All of these are judgments about value-judgment. More generally they say things cannot touch us because they cannot touch the guiding principles within us. We are free to lovingly accept what the world has to offer and treat people with a heart free of bitterness.

- - -
My interpretation of the Meditations as spiritual exercises comes from Pierre Hadot. Others mention them but rarely see the pervasive depth and significance of this insight and what it means for our reading of the Meditations. See Hadot's 'Philosophy as a way of life'.

Remember that the books of the Meditations were not ordered that way by Marcus Aurelius himself. For the most interesting read, I would recommend reading the meditations starting at book III, then book VII, read the rest in any order but leave Book 1 to last (it was actually written last). Book 1 expresses gratitude for those people who have made him into who he is. It makes for more interesting reading when you have been exposed to his other books first.

Monday, 6 January 2014

The last days of Socrates                 

The publisher's summary is as follows: "The trial and condemnation of Socrates on charges of heresy and corrupting young minds is a defining moment in the history of Classical Athens. In tracing these events through four dialogues, Plato also developed his own philosophy, based on Socrates' manifesto for a life guided by self-responsibility. Euthyphro finds Socrates outside the court-house, debating the nature of piety, while The Apology is his robust rebuttal of the charges of impiety and a defence of the philosopher's life. In the Crito, while awaiting execution in prison, Socrates counters the arguments of friends urging him to escape. Finally, in the Phaedo, he is shown calmly confident in the face of death, skilfully arguing the case for the immortality of the soul."

The key to understanding Socrates, says Hadot, is to see philosophy as a way of life: ''a love (philos) of the good.'' That philos comes from within, but after it is awakened it must be renewed through self-questioning and self-examination as a kind of internal dialogue. But what characterises Socratic therapy above all is the “importance [given] to living contact between human beings”.

Hadot illuminates how much of what Socrates said was a form of spiritual exercise; a thing done in dialogue. Socrates taught that knowledge was not a body of propositional knowledge to be passed on from one to another. No, instead, knowledge was a way of Being communicated through dialogue. Famously, he brought his interlocutors to a state of frustration by showing that on their conception of what they thought they knew, they did not know. For example, when one interlocutor defines Justice Socrates reveals his inconsistencies. Challenged to quit his irritating others with his clever but confusing arguments and offer his own definition of justice, he replied: ''I never stop showing what I think is just ... I show it by my actions.''

Thus, doing philosophy no longer meant acquiring "knowledge" but meant questioning ourselves because we have a feeling that we are not as we ought to be. What was required was an inner transformation. In doing philosophy, propositions do get packaged in various themes but they aim not to inform. Instead they strive to persuade, train, and thereby transform. When we strive for wisdom - that is live philosophically - everything that is separately packaged must be lived and practiced inseparably. To acquire wisdom, the philosopher must strive to cultivate their character (internal) for right living (external).

Above all Socrates addressed himself to those who thought they possessed wisdom through their education: the aristocrats and the Sophists he met in the market place. The Sophists thought they could sell their "knowledge" to all comers. But, for Socrates knowledge was not their packaging of propositions (or formulas) that could be sold ready-made. When Socrates claims he knows only one thing - that he knows nothing - he is repudiating the traditional concept of knowledge. He is saying that not only cannot knowledge be acquired ready-made but that it must come from within and be nurtured from within (through dialogue with others and oneself). When Socrates harassed his interlocutors to a point where they were no longer sure of what they knew and what was the basis of their actions he was engaged in a kind of therapy. The interlocutors begin to question themselves or dropped into a state of confusion or irritation. The first step to 'recovery'.

Socrate said that he was like his mother who was a midwife providing a public service by attending to his fellow citizens. His 'maieutic' [may-YOO-tik] method of bringing forth ideas from an interlocutor comes from the Greek word for "of midwifery". He also, likened himself to a gladly as, at times, he had to sting people into thought.

Socrates' ministration were intended to be very different from the teaching of the Sophists who taught for pay. The Sophists had the ability to construct clever argument and were willingness to teach others to do the same. They were not Greek. They travelled, noted and spoke of the fact that people believe rather different in different places. They said truth was not to be found in transcendent sources such as the gods; they built a view of justice on the notion of social agreement or culture. It is easy to see that they could be judged to be a threat to a stable society.  Their ability to persuade by clever argument and technique, led many Greeks to see them as a dangerous element in their society, "a public nuisance and worse".

Unfortunately, although Socrates went to great lengths to distinguish himself from the Sophists, his fellow Athenians couldn't make the distinction in their hearts or minds. Thus, it is understandable that those who were motivated to do so, did not find it too hard to convince the Athenian assembly that Socrates was a danger to the state. He was tried and sentenced to death.

The four short dialogues on the last days of Socrates are a delightful read and are quite moving. Socrates life is one of the most profoundly influential lives in Western culture. This would not have been so had he ran away from Athens. It was the fact that he did not run that showed, then as now, that he was no ordinary sophist.

"O Crito, if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be. [They] may kill me ... but hurt me they cannot." 

Socrates' death was messier than the book portrays, death by hemlock poisoning isn't a dignified matter. It was a heavy price to pay.

End note:
Some of this review is drawn from my review of Hadot's Philosophy As A Way Of Life.

A Rendering of Epictetus' Handbook

Perhaps the most influential  idea in stoicism is: "We are disturbed by the meaning we give to events, not the events themselves." The Stoics understood that our behavioural and emotional responses to what happens are mediated by our habits of thought and that when these thoughts are identified they loosen their grip on us and we can start to work ourselves free from them by replacing them with wiser thoughts.  Thus, Epictetus' Handbook is a compilation of general rules and exercises intended to loosen the grip of common thoughts and instil and reinforce new, wiser, thoughts. The Handbook is, as it were, a training manual and is not a philosophical discourse.

"We ought to know that it is not easy to have fixed principles if we do not daily say the same things, and hear the same things, and at the same time apply them to life"[Epictetus Fragments LXXII] 

The opening of the Handbook introduces three areas of training: Desire, Impulse, and Opinion. These areas are related to three areas of discourse into which the teaching of philosophy was typically divided: Nature, Ethics, and Logic.

Desire - Nature
The Stoics actually used the word 'physics' to include the natural world and what we would call cosmology and theology. They argued that the whole cosmos is permeated with a rational spirit that produces a rational order within nature, societies and individuals. They thought human beings share a part of their soul with that generative rational spirit. Thus, in some interpretations, we are co-producers of fate even though the cosmos does not respond to our will. It is when we fully understand and accept 'physics', that our desires do not run against the grain of nature; we willingly live in conformity to nature. This is the foundation of a secure and enduring happiness.

Impulse - Ethics
To live in conformity to nature (and, therefore, our nature), implies that our impulses to act should be

shaped accordingly. 

Opinion - Logic
It is no use having the proper desires and appropriate impulses if we do not see things as they are and draw proper conclusions. In other words, we need to have sound opinions.

There are 52 short sections below that are grouped into the above areas, except for a few sections at the end that emphasise that the purpose of philosophical discourse is to live a philosophical life. I have edited the sections by making additions and replacements marked in square brackets [ ], and deletions marked by ellipsis... Also, I have changed the translation occasionally and introduced a few footnotes*. Where possible, I have made the pronouns plural, but have not otherwise modernised the idioms and examples. The intent is to make the text more accessible with minimal distortion.

*Footnotes are at the end of the relevant section.

Epictetus, Written 135 ACE
Translated by Elizabeth Carter, 1758 ACE

[Epictetus' first section says that the philosopher mindfully distinguishes what makes a difference to their well being and what does not.

[The fundamental postulate is that we should morally evaluate as good, or evil, only that which is within your power to control. To all the rest we should, primarily, be indifferent. If we are good, then we should be as indifferent to all those things that people crave or fear in the same way as we would be indifferent as to which paper coffee cup we take from a boxful. When we are indifferent to the indifferent, we are free. If we attach significant value to, and thereby aim to attain, indifferent things then we will never attain the greatest good that alone will bring us enduring well being.]

1. Some things are up to us and others not. Things that are up to us are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and whatever are our own actions. Things not up to us are body, property, reputation, command, and whatever are not our own actions.

The things that are up to us are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not that is not up to us are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose only to be your own that which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed [as they are a product of judgements; judgements you need not make].

Aiming therefore at such great things, by which alone happiness and freedom are achieved. you must not allow yourself to be carried, even with a slight tendency, towards the attainment of lesser things as that will prevent you from attaining the greater. Instead, you must entirely quit some things and for the present postpone the rest.

Work, therefore, to be able to say to every harsh appearance, "You are but an appearance, and not absolutely the thing you appear to be*." [You should habitually ask] whether it[, the appearance,] concerns the things which are in your own control or those which are not; and, if it concerns anything not in your control, be prepared to say that it is nothing to you.

*The the harsh appearance is actually a judgement you have made and is not an unmediated perception of a naked event.

Training Desire: 2-29
[The philosopher recognises that when something is outside their control and should neither desire it nor be averse to it.]

2. Remember that following desire promises the attainment of that of which you are desirous, and aversion promises avoiding that to which you are averse. However, those who fail to obtain the object of their desire are disappointed, and those who incur the object of their aversion wretched. If then, you confine your aversion to those objects only which are contrary to the natural use of your faculties, which you have in your own control, you will never incur anything to which you are averse. But, if you are averse to sickness, or death, or poverty, you will be wretched. Remove aversion, then, from all things that are not in your control, and transfer it to things contrary to the nature of what is in your control. But, for the present, totally suppress desire: for, if you desire any of the things which are not in your own control, you must necessarily be disappointed; and of those which are, and which it would be laudable to desire, nothing is yet in your possession. Use only the appropriate actions of pursuit and avoidance, and even these lightly, and with gentleness and reservation. [A stoic wishes to see their friends, for example, only if in the course of events it is good to happen. So, the wish is made with reservation. And, if the wish is thwarted, the stoic is not thwarted as their wish remains within conformity to nature.]

3. With regard to whatever objects give you delight, are useful, or are deeply loved, remember to tell yourself of what general nature they are, beginning from the most insignificant things. If, for example, you are fond of a specific ceramic cup, remind yourself that it is only ceramic cups in general of which you are fond. Then, if it breaks, you will not be disturbed. If you kiss your child or your wife, say that you only kiss things which are human, and thus you will not be disturbed if either of them dies. [With all things, take care of them but don't view them as your own, "just as travellers view a hotel."]

4. When you are going about any action, remind yourself what nature the action is. If you are going to bathe, picture to yourself the things which usually happen in the bath: some people splash about, some jostle, some revile, and others steal. Thus, you will more safely go about this action if you say to yourself, "I will now go bathe, and keep my own mind in a state conformable to nature." And, in the same manner with regard to every other action. For thus, if any hindrance arises in bathing, you will have it ready to say, "It was not only to bathe that I desired but to keep my mind in a state conformable to nature, and I will not keep it if I am bothered at things that happen.

[A stoic is always careful to set appropriate goals. Rather than setting themselves the goal of obtaining high office, for example (which is not under their control), they set themselves the goal of being worthy of high office (which is under their control). Thus, Stoics are able to achieve their goals even in the face of external 'failures'.]

5. We are disturbed by the meaning we give to events, not the events themselves. Death, for instance, is not terrible ... the terror consists in our notion of death: that it is terrible. When, therefore, we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our interpretation of events. An uninstructed person will lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others. Someone just starting instruction will lay the fault on himself. Some who is perfectly instructed will place blame neither on others nor on himself.

6. Don't be prideful with any excellence that is not your own. If a horse should be prideful and say, " I am handsome," it would be supportable. But when you are prideful, and say, " I have a handsome horse," know that you are proud of what is, in fact, only the good of the horse. What, then, is your own? Only your reaction to the appearances of things. Thus, when you behave conformably to nature in reaction to how things appear, you will be proud with reason; for you will take pride in some good of your own.

7. Consider, when on a voyage, your ship is anchored and you go on shore to get fresh water, you may, along the way, pick up a shellfish, or a truffle. Your thoughts and continual attention, however, ought to be bent towards the ship, in case the helmsman calls; you must then immediately leave all these things, otherwise, you will be thrown into the ship, bound neck and feet like a sheep. So it is with life. If instead of an truffle or a shellfish, you are given a wife or child, that is fine. Only, if the helmsman calls, you must run to the ship, paying no attention to them, or anything else. And, if you are old, never go far from the ship: so. when you are called, you never fail to appear.

8. Don't demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will get on well.

9. Sickness is a hindrance to the body, but not to your ability to choose ... Lameness is a hindrance to the leg, but not to your ability to choose. Say this to yourself with regard to everything that happens, then you will see such obstacles as hindrances to something else, but not to yourself.

10. With everything that happens, ask yourself what faculty you have for making a proper use of it. If you [are lustful ask yourself what faculty do I have for making proper use of it,] and you will find that self-restraint is the faculty to exercise [and thus reminded you to be better placed to exercise it]. If you are faced with adversity, you will find fortitude is the faculty to exercise [a reminder that will help you find a way forward]. If you come across rudeness, you will find that polite patience is the faculty to exercise. [And, so on.] And, if, in this way, you train yourself, the appearances of things will not carry you away with them.

11. Never say of anything, "I have lost it"; but, "It has been given it back" Is your child dead? It is given back. Is your wife dead? She is given back. Is your estate taken away? ... is not that likewise returned? "But he who took it away is a bad man." What difference is it to you who the giver assigns to take it back? While he gives it to you to possess, take care of it; but don't view it as your own, just as travellers view a hotel.

12. If you want to improve, reject such reasonings as these: "If I neglect my affairs, I'll have no income; if I don't correct my servant, he will be bad." For it is better to die with hunger, exempt from grief and fear than to live in affluence with perturbation; and it is better your servant should be bad, than you unhappy. Begin, therefore, from little things. Is a little oil spilt? A little wine was stolen? Say to yourself, "This is the price paid for tranquillity; nothing is to be had for nothing." When you call your servant, it is possible that he may not come; or, if he does, he may not do what you want. But he is by no means of such importance that it should be in his power to give you any disturbance.

13. If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things. Don't wish to be thought to know anything; and even if you appear to be somebody important to others, distrust yourself. For, it is difficult to both keep your faculty of choice in a state conformable to nature and at the same time acquire external things. While you are careful about the one, you must of necessity neglect the other.

14. If you wish your children, your wife, and friends, to live forever, you are stupid... So likewise, if you wish your servant to be without fault,... Exercise yourself with things within your power. Your master is the one who has authority over what you wish or not and to grant the one or the other. ... Whoever would be free, let them wish for nothing, or avoid nothing, else they must necessarily be a slave.

15. Remember that you must behave in life as if at a dinner party. Is anything brought around to you? Put out your hand and take your share with moderation. Does it pass by you? Don't stop it. Has it not yet come? Don't stretch your desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you. Do this with regard to children, to a husband or wife, to public posts, to riches, and you will eventually be a worthy partner of the feasts of the gods. [Better still,] if you don't even take the things which are set before you, but are able even to reject them

16. When you see anyone weeping in grief because his child has gone abroad, or is dead, or because they have suffered in their affairs, be careful ... within your own mind ... be prepared to say, "It's not the accident that distresses this person... it is the judgment which they make about it." As far as [your] words go, [be calmly sympathetic, but do not weep, and if you do sweep with them, do not weep inwardly.

17. 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 is his pleasure you should act as a poor man, a cripple, a governor or a private person, see that you act it naturally [and do not rile against it]. For this is your business, to act well the part assigned you; to choose [your part, is fate's business.]

18. When a raven happens to croak unluckily, don't allow the appearance to [grip you] immediately make the distinction to yourself, and say, "[No omen is about things that are my own. Omens are about] my paltry body, or property, or reputation, or children, or wife. But, to me, all omens are lucky, if I will. For, whichever ... happens, it is in my control to derive advantage from it."

19. You [are] unconquerable if you enter into no combat in which it is not in your own control to conquer. When, therefore, you see anyone eminent in honours, or power, or in high esteem on any other account, take heed not to be [gripped by] the appearance, and to pronounce him happy; for, if the essence of good consists in things in our own control, there will be no room for envy or emulation. But, for your part, don't wish to be a general, or a senator, or a consul, but to be free; and the only way to [freedom, is be indifferent to] things not in our own control.

20. Remember that foul language or blows are not in themselves an outrage; but, it is your judgement that it is so. When, therefore, anyone provokes you, be assured that it is your own judgement which provokes you. Try, therefore, in the first place, not to be carried away by the appearance. For, if you once gain time and respite, you will more easily command yourself.

21. 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 yearn for anything.

22. If you have an earnest desire of attaining to philosophy, prepare yourself from the very first to be laughed [and sneered] at ... [D]on't have a supercilious look ... but keep steadily to those things which appear best to you ... For ... if you adhere to the same point, those very persons ... will afterwards admire you. But, if you are conquered by them, you will incur a double ridicule.

23. If you ever happen to turn your attention to externals, so as to wish to please anyone, be assured that you have ruined your scheme of life. Be content, then, in everything with being a philosopher; and, if you wish to be thought so likewise by anyone, appear so to yourself[: that is sufficient.]

24. Don't allow such considerations as these distress you. "I will live in dishonour, and be nobody, anywhere." For, if dishonour is an evil, you can no more be involved in any evil by the means of another, than be engaged in anything base. Is it any business of yours, then, to get power, or to be admitted to an entertainment? By no means. How, then, after all, is this a dishonour? And how is it true that you will be nobody anywhere, when you ought to be somebody in those things only which are in your own control, in which you may be of the greatest consequence? "But my friends will be unassisted." -- What do you mean by unassisted? They will not have money from you, nor will you make them Roman citizens. Who told you, then, that these are among the things in our own control, and not the affair of others? And who can give to another the things which he has not himself? "Well, but get them, then, that we too may have a share." If I can get them with the preservation of my own honour and fidelity and greatness of mind, show me the way and I will get them; but if you require me to lose my own proper good that you may gain what is not good, consider how inequitable and foolish you are. Besides, which would you rather have, a sum of money, or a friend of fidelity and honour? Rather assist me, then, to gain this character than require me to do those things by which I may lose it. Well, but my country, say you, as far as depends on me, will be unassisted. Here again, what assistance is this you mean? "It will not have porticoes nor baths of your providing." And what signifies that? Why, neither does a smith provide it with shoes, or a shoemaker with arms. It is enough if everyone fully performs his own proper business. And were you to supply it with another citizen of honour and fidelity, would not he be of use to it? Yes. Therefore neither are you yourself useless to it. "What place, then, say you, will I hold in the state?" Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your fidelity and honour. But if, by desiring to be useful to that, you lose these, of what use can you be to your country when you are become faithless and void of shame.

25. If anyone is preferred before you at an entertainment, or in a compliment, or in being admitted to a consultation? If these things are good, you ought to be glad that he has gotten them; and, if they are evil, don't be grieved that you have not gotten them. And, remember that you cannot, without using the same means [that others use to acquire that preferment], expect to be thought worthy of [ it. For example], how can those who do not frequent the door of any great person, do not attend them, does not praise them, have an equal share with one who does [these things]? You are unjust, then, and insatiable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing. ... [Think of it as similar to the case where a person,] ... paying in coin takes a lettuce, and you, not paying it, go without ..., don't imagine that he has gained an advantage over you. For, as he has the lettuce, [you still have your coins. Thus, in all cases, when you refuse to pay the price and walk away, you walk away with something too.]

26. The will of nature may be learned from [cases where we refrain from distinguishing our case from those of others]. For example, when [someone] breaks a cup or the like, we are presently ready to say, "These things will happen." Be assured, then, that when your own cup likewise is broken, you ought to be affected just as when another's cup was broken ["These things will happen."]. Apply this in like manner to greater things. Is the child or wife of another dead? There is no one who would not say, "This is a human accident" but if anyone's own child happens to die, it is presently, "Alas, I how wretched am I!" But, [to put things into perspective,] it should be remembered how we are affected in hearing the same thing concerning others.

27. As a mark is not set up for the sake of missing the aim, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the world. [What we label as evil is part of the rational order. As Marcus Aurelius says, the head is vulnerable because it has to be light enough to carry. So, head injuries are a part of the rational order.]

28. If a person gave your body to any stranger he met on his way, you would certainly be angry. And, do you feel no shame in handing over your own mind to be confused and mystified by anyone who happens to verbally attack you?

29. 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. [For example, imagine you fancy,] "I would conquer at the Olympic games." But consider what precedes and follows, and then, if it is to your advantage, engage in the affair. [What precedes a win at the Olympics?] 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 other words, you must give yourself up to your trainer, as to a physician. [What follows?] Then, in the combat, you may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your ankle, swallow dust, be whipped, and, after all, lose the victory. When you have evaluated all this, if your inclination still holds, then [and, only then, undertake it]. Otherwise, take notice, you will behave like children who sometimes play like wrestlers, sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes act as a tragedy when they 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 consideredly, nor after having viewed the whole matter on all sides, or made any scrutiny into it, but rashly, and with a cold inclination. Thus, some, when they have seen a philosopher and heard a man speaking, have a mind to be philosophers too. Consider, first, what the matter is, and what your own nature is able to bear. If you would be a wrestler, consider your shoulders, your back, your thighs; for different persons are made for different things. Do you think that you can act as you do, and be a philosopher? That you can eat and drink, and be angry and discontented as you are now? You must watch, you must labour, you must get the better of certain appetites, must quit your acquaintance, be despised by your servant, be laughed at by those you meet; come off worse than others in everything, in magistracies, in honours, in courts of judicature. When you have considered all these things round, approach if you please; if, by parting with them, you have a mind to purchase ... freedom, and tranquillity. If not, don't come here; don't, like children, be one while a philosopher, then a publican, then an orator, and then one of Caesar's officers. These things are not consistent. You must be one person, either good or bad. You must cultivate either your own helmsman or externals, and apply yourself either to things within and be a philosopher or without you and be one of the vulgar.

Training Impulse: 30-41
[A belief that attributes a certain kind of value to one's own potential for action is an evaluative appearance. An impulse is an assent to an evaluative appearance. Impulses are sufficient for action. There is no further need, data, or 'push' required to produce the action. As we are responsible for our actions, we need to control them. To control them appropriately we must refrain from assenting to a range of evaluative appearances. The first step then is to recognise appearances as evaluative.]

30. Duties are universally [determined] by the roles we take. [Think of a neighbour, a citizen, or a general and you think of the corresponding duties.] Is anyone a father? If so, it is implied that the children should take care of him, submit to him in everything, patiently listen to his reproaches, his correction. But, he is a bad father. Are you naturally entitled, then, to a good father? No, only to a father. Is a brother unjust? Well, keep your own situation towards him. Consider not what he does, but what you are to do to keep your own faculty of choice in a state conformable to nature. For another will not hurt you unless you please. You will then be hurt when you think you are hurt. 

31. Be assured that the essential property of piety towards the gods* is to form right opinions concerning them, as existing and as governing the universe with goodness and justice. And, fix yourself in this resolution, to obey them, and yield to them, and willingly follow them in all events, as produced by the most perfect understanding. For, thus, you will never find fault with the gods, nor accuse them of neglecting you. And, it is not possible for this to be effected any other way than by withdrawing yourself from things not in our own control and placing good or evil in those only which are. For, if you suppose any of the things not in our own control to be either good or evil, when you are disappointed in what you wish or incur what you would avoid, you must necessarily find fault with and blame the authors [the gods or nature]. For, every animal is naturally formed to fly and abhor things that appear hurtful, and the causes of them; and to pursue and admire those which appear beneficial, and the causes of them. It is impractical, then, [to suppose oneself to be hurt and be happy about the person who has caused the hurt,] just as it is impossible to be happy about the hurt itself. On this account, the husbandman, the sailor, and the merchant, when nature does not impart to the things which they take to be good, revile the gods. [Similarly,] those who lose wives and children. Hence, also, a father is reviled by his child, when he does not impart to him the things which he takes to be good; and the supposing empire to be a good made Polynices and Eteocles** mutually enemies. Where interest is, there too is piety. So that, whoever is careful to regulate their desire and aversion as they ought, is, by the very same means, pious. [Thus, regulating our desires and aversions is a spiritual practice.]

But, [as our nature is that of a citizen,] it is also incumbent on us to offer libations and sacrifices and first fruits, conformably to the customs of our country, with purity, and not in a slovenly manner, nor negligently, nor sparingly, nor beyond our ability. [In short, it is also incumbent upon us to mindfully engage in the rituals of our community.]

*The Stoics were pantheists (remember their physics) but often wrote in the common way as though there were individual gods.

**These twin brothers start out as friendly power-sharing monarchs over the city of Thebes but end up killing each other in the battle between Argos and Thebes.

32. [When you look for answers by gazing into the crystal ball, you know not what the future event will be, and you look to learn it; but a philosopher knows beforehand of what nature it is. For if it is among the things not in our own control, it can not be either good or evil. Don't, therefore, bring either desire or aversion into it (else you will be apprehensive); know that every event is indifferent to you and it will be in your power to make a right use of it.]

33. From the first, lay down a certain stamp and style for yourself 

- Be for the most part silent, or speak merely what is necessary, and in few words. We may, however, enter, though sparingly, into discourse sometimes when occasion calls for it, but not on any of the common subjects, of gladiators, or horse races, or athletic champions, or feasts, the vulgar topics of conversation; but principally not of men, so as either to blame, or praise, or make comparisons. If you are able, then, by your own conversation bring over that of your company to proper subjects; but, if you happen to be taken among strangers, be silent.

- Don't allow your laughter be much, nor on many occasions, nor profuse. - Refuse to take oaths, if possible, altogether; if not, as far as you are able.

- Refuse vulgar entertainments; but, if ever an occasion calls you to them then be mindful, so that you do not imperceptibly lapse into vulgar manners ... [For], a clean person will be tainted by a stained companion.

- Provide things relating to the body no further than mere use; as meat, drink, clothing, house, family. But strike off and reject everything relating to show and delicacy.

- As far as possible, before marriage, keep yourself pure from familiarities with the opposite sex and, if you indulge them, let it be lawfully. But don't, therefore, be troublesome and full of reproofs to those who use these liberties, nor frequently boast that you yourself don't.

- If anyone tells you that such a person speaks ill of you, don't make excuses about what is said of you, but answer: "He does not know my other faults, else he would not have mentioned only these."

- It is not necessary for you to appear often at public spectacles; but if ever there is a proper occasion for you to be there, don't appear more solicitous for anyone than for yourself; that is, wish things to be only just as they are, and him only to conquer who is the conqueror, for thus you will meet with no hindrance. But abstain entirely from declamations and derision and violent emotions. And when you come away, don't discourse a great deal on what has passed, and what does not contribute to your own amendment. For it would appear by such discourse that you were immoderately struck with the show.

- Do not go lightly or casually to lectures. But, if you do appear, keep your gravity and dignity, whilst avoiding being offensive.

- When you are going to confer with anyone, and particularly of those in a superior station, imagine how Socrates or Zeno would behave in such a case, and you will not be at a loss to make a proper use of whatever may occur.

- When you are going to any of the people in power, imagine that you will not find them at home; that you will not be admitted; that the doors will not be opened to you; that they will take no notice of you. If, with all this, it is your duty to go, bear what happens, and never say [to yourself], " It was not worth so much." For this is vulgar, and like a man dazed by external things.

- In parties of conversation, avoid a frequent and excessive mention of your own actions and adventures. For, however agreeable it may be to yourself to mention these things, it is not equally agreeable to others.

- Avoid, likewise, [comic behaviour]. 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 those who make advances that way; or, at least, by silence and blushing and a forbidding look, show yourself to be displeased by such talk.

34. If you are struck by the appearance of any promised pleasure, guard yourself against being hurried away by it; but let the affair wait for your leisure, and procure yourself some delay. Then [imagine the case where you] enjoy the pleasure, and ... repent and reproach yourself after you have enjoyed it; and, in opposition ..., how you will be glad and applaud yourself if you abstain. And even though it should appear to you a seasonable gratification, take heed that its enticing, and agreeable and attractive force may not subdue you; but set in opposition to this how much better it is to be conscious of having gained so great a victory.*

*Stoic mindfulness is like a 'Rational Recovery' (RR) Program. On the Rational Recovery view, an 'Addictive Voice' is the cause of an addiction. You must take responsibility to recognize your addictive voice as always wrong. When you learn to recognize an addictive voice as precisely that - an addictive voice - the voice is no longer you and you cannot be "hurried away" by it. Similarly with stoic 'guard'.

35. When you do anything from a clear judgment that it ought to be done, never shun the being seen to do it, even though the world should make a wrong supposition about it; for, if you don't act right, shun the action itself; but, if you do, why are you afraid of those who censure you wrongly?

36. [A]t 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.

[Also, "... don't talk about how persons ought to eat, but eat as you ought." 46]

37. If you have assumed a role above your strength, you have [not only] made an ill figure in that [but have also lost the opportunity of taking a role] which you might have supported.

38. When walking, you are careful not to step on a nail or turn your foot; so likewise be careful not to hurt the helmsman of your mind. And, if we were to guard against this in every action, we should undertake the action with the greater safety.

39. The body is to every one the measure of the possessions proper for it, just as the foot is of the shoe. If, therefore, you stop at this, you will keep the measure; but if you move beyond it, you must necessarily be carried forward, as down a cliff; as in the case of a shoe, if you go beyond its fitness to the foot, it comes first to be gilded, then purple, and then studded with jewels. For to that which once exceeds a due measure, there is no bound.

40. [Men:] Women from fourteen years old are flattered ... by the men. Therefore, perceiving that they are regarded only as qualified to give the men pleasure, they begin to adorn themselves, and in that to place ill their hopes. Men should, therefore, fix their attention on making women sensible that they are valued for [their character].

41. It is a mark of want of genius to spend much time in things relating to the body, as to belong in our exercises, in eating and drinking, and in the discharge of other animal functions. These should be done incidentally and slightly, and our whole attention be engaged in the care of the understanding.

Training Opinion: 42-45
[One's judgement always determines one's desires and impulses. These exercises focus on cultivating sound opinions.]

42. When any person harms you, or speaks badly of you, remember that they act or speaks from a supposition that it is fitting for them. Now, it is not possible that they should follow what appears right to you, and also what appears fitting to them. Therefore, if they judge from a wrong appearance, they are the ones hurt, since they are deceived. For if anyone should suppose a true proposition to be false, the proposition is not hurt, but they are who are deceived [by it]. Setting out, then, from these principles, you will [with gentle patience and humility] bear a person who reviles you, for you will say upon every occasion, "It seemed so to them".

43. Everything has two handles, the one by which it may be carried, the other by which it cannot. If your brother acts unjustly, don't lay hold on the action by the handle of his injustice, for by that it cannot be carried; but by the opposite, that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you; and thus you will lay hold on it, as it is to be carried.

44. These reasonings are unconnected: "I am richer than you, therefore I am better"; "I am more eloquent than you, therefore I am better." The connection is rather this: "I am richer than you, therefore my property is greater than yours;" "I am more eloquent than you, therefore my style is better than yours." But you, after all, are neither property nor style.

45. Does anyone bathe in a mighty little time? Don't say that he does it ill but in a mighty little time. Does anyone drink a great quantity of wine? Don't say that he does ill, but that he drinks a great quantity. For, unless you perfectly understand the principle from which anyone acts, how should you know if he acts ill. Thus, you will not run the hazard of assenting to any appearances but such as you fully comprehend.

Life: 46-52
[These exercises serve to emphasise that the purpose or end of philosophical discourse is a philosophical life.] 

46. Never call yourself a philosopher, nor talk a great deal among the unlearned about principles, but act conformably to them. ... for the most part, be silent. And, if anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled at it, then you may be sure that you have begun your business. For there is great danger that you will blurt out what you have not digested. For sheep don't vomit the grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten; but, inwardly digesting their food, they outwardly produce wool and milk. Thus, therefore, likewise do not show your principles to the unlearned, but the actions that are the yield from them after they have been digested.

47. [Neither take pride in a simple and frugal lifestyle (it is subtly boastful), nor resent it] consider how much more sparing and patient of hardship the poor are ... if at any time you would inure yourself by exercise to labour, and bearing hard trials, do it for your own sake, and not for the [sake of how others see you.]

48. The condition and characteristic of a vulgar person, is, that they never expect either benefit or hurt from within, but from externals. The condition and characteristic of a philosopher are, that they expect all hurt and benefit from within ... [The philosopher] censures no one, praises no one, blames no one, accuses no one, says nothing concerning themselves as being anybody, or knowing anything: when they are, in any instance, hindered or restrained, they accuse themselves; and, if they are praised, they secretly chuckle at the person who praises; and, if they are censured, they make no defence. But, they go about with the caution of sick or injured people, extremely apprehensive to move anything that is set right, before it is perfectly fixed. They suppress all desire; they transfer their aversion to those things only which thwart the proper use of their own faculty of choice; their exertion towards anything is very gentle; if they appear stupid or ignorant, they do not care. They watch themselves as an enemy, and one in ambush.

49. When anyone shows himself overly confident in ability to understand and interpret the works of Chrysippus*, say to yourself, "Unless Chrysippus had written obscurely, this person would have had no subject for his vanity. But what do I desire? To understand nature and follow her. I ask, then, who interprets her, and, finding Chrysippus does, I have recourse to him. I don't understand his writings. I seek, therefore, one to interpret them." So far there is nothing to value myself upon. And, when I find an interpreter, what remains is to make use of his instructions. This, alone, is the valuable thing. But, if I admire nothing but merely the interpretation, what do I become more than a grammarian instead of a philosopher? Except, indeed, that instead of Homer I interpret Chrysippus. When anyone, therefore, desires me to read Chrysippus to him, I rather blush when I cannot show my actions agreeable and consonant to his discourse.

*[Chrysippus, said to be the second founder of Stoicism, was a prolific author on Stoic doctrine. He expanded, systematised, and deepened stoic doctrine thus making stoicism the most influential philosophic school for hundreds of years. He created an original theory of propositional logic that became properly appreciated only when it was recapitulated by modern logical theory.]

50. Whatever principles you have [thoughtfully adoptedy], abide by them as [though] they were laws, and as if you would be guilty of impiety by violating any of them. Don't regard what anyone says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours. How long, then, will you put off thinking yourself worthy of the highest improvements and follow the distinctions of reason? You [are familiar with and have accepted the] philosophical principles. What other master, then, do you wait for to delay reforming yourself? You are no longer a child, but a grown person. If [you continue to be] negligent and slothful, and always add procrastination to procrastination, purpose to purpose, and fix day after day in which you will attend to yourself, you will insensibly continue [to be laid low by diseases of the soul], and, living and dying, persevere in being one of the vulgar. [Now is the time to] think yourself worthy of living as a grown up [who is attending to their soul]. Let whatever appears to be the best be to you an inviolable law. And, if any instance of pain or pleasure, or glory or disgrace, is set before you, remember that now is the combat, now the Olympiad comes on, nor can it be put off. By once being defeated and giving way, [recovery] is lost, or, by the contrary, preserved. Thus, Socrates became perfect, improving himself by attending to nothing but reason in all he encountered. And, though you are not yet a Socrates, you ought, however, to live as one desirous of becoming a Socrates.

51. The first and most necessary topic in philosophy is that of the use of moral principles, such as, "We ought not to lie;" the second is that of demonstrations, such as, "What is the origin of our obligation not to lie;" the third gives strength and articulation to the other two, such as, "What is the origin of this is a demonstration." For what is demonstration? What is consequence? What contradiction? What truth? What falsehood? The third topic, then, is necessary on the account of the second, and the second on the account of the first. But, the most necessary, and that whereon we ought to rest is the first. But, [regrettably], we act just on the contrary. For we spend all our time on the third topic and employ all our diligence about that, and entirely neglect the first. Therefore, at the same time that we lie, we are immediately prepared to show how it is demonstrated that lying is not right. [A 'flight into reason'].

52. Upon all occasions we ought to have these maxims ready at hand:

"Conduct me, Jove, and you, O Destiny, Wherever your decrees have fixed my station."  

"I follow cheerfully; and, did I not, / Wicked and wretched, I must follow still / Whoever yields properly to Fate, is deemed / Wise among men, and knows the laws of heaven."  Euripides, Frag. 965

And this third:

"O Crito*, if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be. Anytus and Melitus** may kill me indeed, but hurt me they cannot."  Plato's Crito and Apology
*Crito expressed his admiration at the level of calm that Socrates displays in the face of his death. Socrates answers.
**Anytus and Melitus were two of Socrates accusers.

Marcus Aurelius' Meditations are notes to himself on Epictetus' exercises. It is doing the exercises, not a discourse on philosophy. He wrote well-crafted notes in Greek, not Latin, on the Handbook themes in order to more deeply absorb the lessons and thereby 'stain his soul for action'. Writing a journal for that purpose was a practice recommended in the Roman period.