At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work—as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for—the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
—But it’s nicer here…
So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
—But we have to sleep sometime…
Agreed. But nature set a limit on that—as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.
You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.
Meditations is a 2,000 year old private diary written by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He was the most powerful man of his time, and his journal entries were mostly reminders not to let that go to his head, that time waits for no one, and that everything is temporary. These reminders are still potent and humbling today. These are truly words to live by and I count myself fortunate to be able to meditate on them every now and then.
I carried this book around Europe with me in the Summer of 2011 and re-read it last month. Seeing my aged and faded highlights were a fascinating reminder of the time past and how I’ve changed: my priorities are different now and I ended up highlighting completely different passages this time around.