Discover more from The Meandering Mind
Entertaining thoughts on death and life. A truthful way to celebrate life.
Soon you will be dead, and none of it will matter.
~ Marcus Aurelius
Yesterday was my 19th birthday. I thought it would be a good time for some reflections on life and death in this honor.
Meditating on the idea of death is perhaps the most important thing we can do throughout our life. It will keep us in line, and make sure to keep our focus on the things that matter to us. Some will argue that it likewise is a tool for persevering through suffering because it reminds us that we all share the same fate—no matter how external events may transpire.
I spent some of my special day walking through the streets of my cherished hometown in Denmark with my twin sister (we share birthdays). The streets here are quite special to me… during the evening hours of sundown, I usually find a special moment to walk. A moment without much uproar; a moment of gratefulness and then of noticing everyone’s absence from this tranquility.
I reflected on how far I’ve come, but I also considered how much time I have left.
The ancient philosophers invested in Stoicism would occasionally remind themselves of how short their time on earth is, and how insignificant their lives are. In the grand scheme of the universe, our life plays but a minuscule part. They did this to appreciate the present moment… to live in the now. That is, I believe, a rightful way to look at life. Instead of worrying about events without your control—such as death—one finds a way to appreciate being itself.
I often remind myself that I could die right now, in this very moment. It might seem somewhat bizarre to be addressing this on the week of my birthday, but quite the contrary, I find this comforting.
It is peace, knowing that being (together with the same form and processes happening incessantly) is to be cherished, for everything and everyone who has ever been will soon vanish. That is the inevitability of life! Everything must eventually come to an end.
Really, it is curious why we are afraid of such a natural thing. If it is normal, then how could we be? I suppose it is the idea that this is all there is. That, even though we have this short period of time, so too will we spend the rest of eternity untouched—and unable to be present (assuming that this is your belief, and yet, even then). Eternity when gone, by all estimates, will be like the snap of a finger—as was life before birth. In this light, we must remember that the value of life lies not in the duration—but in the act of being itself.
Don’t worry about how long you’ll go on doing this. A single afternoon would be enough.
~ Marcus Aurelius
Instead of worrying about something that is not even here (death), we need to admire the present moment. Epicurus’ argument for death illustrates this point perfectly. "Why should I fear death? When death is, I am not, and when I am, death is not. Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?", from the Epicurean philosophy that death cannot harm us—and is nothing to us.
I appreciate this point of view, as it speaks so many volumes. Yes, indeed… why should we fear something that is not within our lifetime?
One might fear the ending of the lifetime itself, the part of dying. While this can be painful, Stoics make the argument that one can endure it, because it will soon be over, and knowing this will help.
Unfortunately, I am inclined to think that our compulsive use of phones is removing us from the present moment—consequently making us less happy. It allows us to escape an embarrassing moment, but the addiction just as well allows us to escape the moments that shape our lives. We should not become too attached to our possessions, identities, or achievements—for they are temporary… they are fleeting. Instead, we should strive to live in accordance with our principles and values.
As my sister and I were strolling, we found a bench near the community churchyard. Do not mistake me for believing in the existence of any kind of God—but we occasionally like going there for reflection and to slow down. After all, I do not know many places as peaceful as a graveyard, I will be honest. This place has a wonderful view, as the bench is right next to a string of large fields—which makes for an indescribable view of the sun setting. What too is wonderful is that it directly confronts our mortality, one-to-one, a conversation with the natural fragments of nature…
This notion that Marcus Aurelius presents to us sticks with me as a helpful indicator. It helps me to realize—more often than not—that I am probably blowing things out of proportion. That I am better off using time for the things that matter.
“Close to forgetting it all,” Marcus Aurelius rightfully reminds us, “close to being forgotten. And what is it all but people puffed up and soon to be gone, and then those they puffed up, themselves gone.”
Until next time (that is, if I am still here),