Commonplace Wren

A Collection of Thoughts


Marcus Aurelius (2003 Translation)

Chapter 2-1

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil.

But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own...

And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together...

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 11/17/2023

Chapter 2-5

Concentrate every minute… on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions.

Yes, you can— if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.

You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life?

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 11/18/2023

Chapter 2-11

You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.  

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 11/19/2023

Chapter 2-13

What is divine deserves our respect because it is good; what is human deserves our affection because it is like us. And our pity too, sometimes, for its inability to tell good from bad- as terrible a blindness as the kind that can't tell white from black.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 11/20/2023

Chapter 2-14

Even if you’re going to live three thousand more years, or ten times that, remember: you cannot lose another life than the one you’re living now, or live another one than the one you’re losing. The longest amounts to the same as the shortest.

The present is the same for everyone; its loss is the same for everyone; and it should be clear that a brief instant is all that is lost. For you can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 11/21/2023

Chapter 3-4

Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people—unless it affects the common good. It will keep you from doing anything useful.

You’ll be too preoccupied with what so-and-so is doing, and why, and what they’re saying, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and all the other things that throw you off and keep you from focusing on your own mind.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 11/22/2023

Chapter 3-4

You need to avoid certain things in your train of thought: everything random, everything irrelevant. And certainly everything self-important or malicious.

You need to get used to winnowing your thoughts, so that if someone says, "What are you thinking about?" you can respond at once (and truthfully) that you are thinking this or thinking that.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 11/23/2023

Chapter 3-6

…then don't make room for anything … that might lead you astray, tempt you off the road, and leave you unable to devote yourself completely to achieving the goodness that is uniquely yours. It would be wrong for anything to stand between you and attaining goodness…

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 11/25/2023

Chapter 3-10

Each of us lives only now, this brief instant. The rest has been lived already or is impossible to see.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 11/27/2023

Chapter 3-11

To the stand-bys above, add this one: always to define whatever it is we perceive—to trace its outline—so we can see what it really is: its substance. Stripped bare. As a whole. Unmodified. And to call it by its name—the thing itself and its components, to which it will eventually return.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 12/2/2023

Chapter 3-12

If you do the job in a principled way, with diligence, energy and patience, if you keep yourself free of distractions, and keep the spirit inside you undamaged, as if you might have to give it back at any moment–

If you can embrace this without fear or expectation–can find fulfillment in what you’re doing now, as Nature intended, and in superhuman truthfulness (every word, every utterance)–then your life will be happy.

No one can prevent that.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 12/4/2023

Chapter 3-16

To welcome with affection what is sent by fate. Not to stain or disturb the spirit within him with a mess of false beliefs. Instead, to preserve it faithfully, by calmly obeying God—saying nothing untrue, doing nothing unjust. And if the others don’t acknowledge it—this life lived with simplicity, humility, cheerfulness—he doesn’t resent them for it, and isn’t deterred from following the road where it leads: to the end of life. An end to be approached in purity, in serenity, in acceptance, in peaceful unity with what must be.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 12/12/2023

Chapter 4-3

Above all, no strain and no stress. Be straightforward. Look at things like a man, like a human being, like a citizen, like a mortal. And among the things you turn to, these two:

i. That things have no hold on the soul. They stand there unmoving, outside it. Disturbance comes only from within — from our own perceptions.

ii. That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist. Think of how many changes you’ve already seen.

"The world is nothing but change. Our life is only perception."

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 12/15/2023

Chapter 4-6

That sort of person is bound to do that. You might as well resent a fig tree for secreting juice.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 12/19/2023

Chapter 4-7

Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 12/23/2023

Chapter 4-18

The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 12/26/2023

Chapter 4-19

People who are excited by posthumous fame forget that the people who remember them will soon die too. And those after them in turn. Until their memory, passed from one to another like a candle flame, gutters and goes out.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 1/2/2024

Chapter 4-20

Beautiful things of any kind are beautiful in themselves and sufficient to themselves. Praise is extraneous. The object of praise remains what it was—no better and no worse. This applies, I think, even to “beautiful” things in ordinary life—physical objects, artworks.

Does anything genuinely beautiful need supplementing? No more than justice does—or truth, or kindness, or humility. Are any of those improved by being praised? Or damaged by contempt? Is an emerald suddenly flawed if no one admires it? Or gold, or ivory, or purple? Lyres? Knives? Flowers? Bushes?

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 1/4/2024

Chapter 4-24

If you seek tranquility, do less. Or (more accurately) do what’s essential — what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better.

Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, "Is this necessary?"

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 1/9/2024

Chapter 4-32

A key point to bear in mind: The value of attentiveness varies in proportion to its object. You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 1/11/2024

Chapter 4-33

Everything fades so quickly, turns into legend, and soon oblivion covers it.

Then what should we work for?

Only this: proper understanding; unselfish action; truthful speech. A resolve to accept whatever happens as necessary and familiar, flowing like water from that same source and spring.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 1/16/2024

Chapter 4-36

Constant awareness that everything is born from change.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 1/18/2024

Chapter 4-39

Nothing that goes on in anyone else's mind can harm you. Nor can the shifts and changes in the world around you.

--Then where is harm to be found?

In your capacity to see it. Stop doing that and everything will be fine.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 1/23/2024

Chapter 5-1

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?"

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?

...You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 1/25/2024

Chapter 5-3

If an action or utterance is appropriate, then it’s appropriate for you. Don’t be put off by other people’s comments and criticism. If it’s right to say or do it, then it’s the right thing for you to do or say.

The others obey their own lead, follow their own impulses. Don’t be distracted. Keep walking. Follow your own nature, and follow Nature—along the road they share.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 1/30/2024

Chapter 5-9

Not to feel exasperated, or defeated, or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human — however imperfectly — and fully embrace the pursuit that you’ve embarked on.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 2/1/2024

Chapter 5-16

The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 2/6/2024

Chapter 5-17

It is crazy to want what is impossible. And impossible for the wicked not to do so.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 2/8/2024

Chapter 5-19

Things have no hold on the soul. They have no access to it, cannot move or direct it. It is moved and directed by itself alone. It takes the things before it and interprets them as it sees fit.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 2/13/2024

Chapter 5-20

In a sense, people are our proper occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 2/15/2024

Chapter 5-20

The impediment to action advances action.

What stands in the way becomes the way.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 2/20/2024

Chapter 5-25

So other people hurt me? That's their problem. Their character and actions are not mine. What is done to me is ordained by nature, what I do by my own.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 2/22/2024

Chapter 5-26

The mind is the ruler of the soul. It should remain unstirred by agitations of the flesh - gentle and violent ones alike. Not mingling with them, but fencing itself off and keeping those feelings in their place. When they make their way into your thoughts, through the sympathetic link between mind and body, don’t try to resist the sensation. The sensation is natural. But don’t let the mind start in with judgments, calling it “good” or “bad.”

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 2/27/2024

Chapter 5-33

Honor and revere the gods, treat human beings as they deserve, be tolerant with others and strict with yourself. Remember, nothing belongs to you but your flesh and blood—and nothing else is under your control.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 2/29/2024

Chapter 6-15

Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 3/5/2024

Chapter 6-16

Then what is to be prized?

An audience clapping? No. No more than the clacking of their tongues. Which is all that public praise amounts to — a clacking of tongues.

So we throw out people’s recognition. What’s left for us to prize?

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 3/7/2024

Chapter 6-16

I think it's this: to do (and not do) what we were designed for. That’s the goal of all trades, all arts, and what each of them aims at: that the thing they create should do what it was designed to do.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 3/12/2024

Chapter 6-19

Not to assume it's impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it's humanly possible, you can do it too.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 3/14/2024

Chapter 6-22

I do what is mine to do; the rest doesn’t disturb me.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 3/21/2024

Chapter 6-23

When you deal with irrational animals, with things and circumstances, be generous and straightforward. You are rational; they are not. When you deal with fellow human beings, behave as one.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 3/28/2024

Chapter 6-25

Think how much is going on inside you every second – in your soul, in your body. Why should it astonish you that so much more – everything that happens in that all-embracing unity, the world–is happening at the same time?

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 4/9/2024

Chapter 6-26

Remember — your responsibilities can be broken down into individual parts as well. Concentrate on those, and finish the job methodically — without getting stirred up or meeting anger with anger.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 4/12/2024

Chapter 6-32

Nothing has meaning to my mind except its own actions. Which are within its own control. And it’s only the immediate ones that matter. Its past and future actions too are meaningless.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 4/16/2024

Chapter 6-38

Keep reminding yourself of the way things are connected, of their relatedness. All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 4/18/2024

Chapter 6-39

The things ordained for you – teach yourself to be at one with those. And to the people who share them with you – treat them with love. With real love.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 4/23/2024

Chapter 6-42

All of us are working on the same project. Some consciously, with understanding; some without knowing it.

...Some of us work in one way, and some in others. And those who complain and try to obstruct and thwart things - they help as much as anyone. The world needs them as well.

So make up your mind who you'll choose to work with. The force that directs all things will make good use of you regardless - will put you on its payroll and put you to work.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 5/7/2024

Chapter 6-48

When you need encouragement, think of the qualities the people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is as encouraging as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them.

It’s good to keep this in mind.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 5/9/2024

Chapter 6-52

You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you. Things can’t shape our decisions by themselves.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 5/14/2024

Chapter 6-53

Practice really hearing what people say. Do your best to get inside their minds.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 5/16/2024

Chapter 6-54

What injures the hive injures the bee.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 5/21/2024

Chapter 7-2

I can control my thoughts as necessary; then how can I be troubled? What is outside my mind means nothing to it.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 5/23/2024

Chapter 7-4

Focus on what is said when you speak and on what results from each action. Know what the one aims at, and what the other means.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 5/28/2024

Chapter 7-7

Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 5/30/2024

Chapter 7-14

It doesn't hurt me unless I interpret its happening as harmful to me. I can choose not to.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 6/4/2024

Chapter 7-15

No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good. Like gold or emerald or purple repeating to itself, "No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be emerald, my color undiminished."

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 6/6/2024

Chapter 7-18

Frightened of change? But what can exist without it?

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 6/11/2024

Chapter 7-22

To feel affection for people even when they make mistakes is uniquely human. You can do it, if you simply recognize: that they’re human too, that they act out of ignorance, against their will, and that you’ll both be dead before long. And, above all, that they haven’t really hurt you. They haven’t diminished your ability to choose.

~ Marcus Aurelius

Date Recorded: 6/13/2024