Marcus Aurelius in the Morning

“In the morning, when you find yourself unwilling to leave your bed, consider the thought that ‘I am rising for the work of man.’ Must I complain in going about that for which I was born, and for which I have been brought into this world? Or is this the purpose of my existence, to lay here idly under the warm blankets of my bed?

‘Oh, but this is so much more pleasant!’ Was it then for pleasure that you were brought into this world? Was it not for work, and effort? Have you not seen how all the plants and trees, the ants and sparrows, the spiders and bees, are all busy and intent in performing their own labor in contributing towards the preservation of order in the world? And will you not do that work which belongs to a human being? Will you not quickly attend to the work which Nature demands of you?

‘Sure, but one must have some repose as well.’ Granted, you must. Nature allows for repose, as well as of eating and drinking, within their proper limits. But you must not overstep these limits and walk beyond that which would suffice, while at the same time failing to perform those tasks which require your effort.

You do not love yourself. For if you did, you would also love your nature, and your nature’s end. Those who love their trade and profession – simple craftsmen – can even lose themselves in their labor and neglect their bodies and their food for it; but you dishonor your nature, and regard it as less than an ordinary craftsman his craft, a dancer his dancing, a penny-pincher his silver, or a vainglorious man his fame. These workers, when they love their work, are content to the point of sacrificing food and sleep to further the work of their love. Does that work which is for the common good of civil society seem less worthy to you, or worthy of less effort?”

From Meditations, a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoicism. 

Macarena Pallares

Macarena Pallares is the editor of the Work channel at Humane Pursuits. She holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, where she studied the great philosophical, literary, mathematical, scientific, and musical texts seminal to Western thought. She works at American Philanthropic, a consulting firm whose mission is to strengthen civil society by improving the effectiveness of American charitable foundations and nonprofit organizations. Originally from Quito, Ecuador, she currently lives and works in the greater D.C. and Philadelphia metropolitan areas.

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