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Marcus Aurelius [Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus]

Robin Hard and Christopher Gill (eds), Oxford World's Classics: Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

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1.

Early in the morning, when you find it so hard to rouse yourself from your sleep, have these thoughts ready at hand: 'I am rising to do the work of a human being. Why, then, am I so irritable if I am going out to do what I was born to do and what I was brought into this world for? Or was I created for this, to lie in bed and warm myself under the bedclothes?' 'Well, it is certainly more pleasant.' 'So were you born for pleasure or, in general, for feeling, or for action? Do you not see how the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees, each do their own work and play their part in the proper running of the universe? And will you, then, for your part, refuse to do the work of a human being? Will you not hasten to do what your nature requires of you?'—'Yes, but one needs one's rest too.'—Quite so, but nature has set limits on that, as she has on eating and drinking, and yet you are going beyond those limits, and beyond what is sufficient. But when it comes to your actions, that is no longer the case, but there you stop short of what you could do. The truth is, you have no love for yourself; or else you would love both your own nature and all that your nature wills. Others who love their own trades wear themselves to the bone as they work away at them without pausing to wash or feed; but you hold your own nature in less honour than the sculptor his metalwork, the dancer his dancing, the miser his money, or the glory-hunter his scrap of fame. And yet these people, when the fit takes them, would sooner do without food or sleep rather than fail to make progress in the things that they care about, while you for your part suppose that actions that serve the common good are of lesser value and less deserving of effort.

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