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Marcus Aurelius on Your Moment in Time

Marcus Aurelius on Your Moment in Time

“Consider how quickly all things are dissolved and disappear: the bodies and substances themselves, into the matter and substance of the world: and their memories into the general age and time of the world. Consider the nature of all worldly sensible things; of those especially, which either ensnare by pleasure, or for their irksomeness are dreadful, or for their outward luster and show are in great esteem and request, how vile and contemptible, how base and corruptible, how destitute of all true life and being they are.” - Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, 2.12

Buh-bye 2023, and well hello there 2024! It’s that time of year again when we arbitrarily designate the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. I guess it’s close enough to the winter solstice as to be a genuine renewal of sorts, but anyone who has hungry pets knows that January 1 is basically just another morning.

And yet, the illusion of renewal that the new year affords us is absolutely worth embracing. Why? Because we could all use some renewal. Even your cat, who didn’t give a shit that you were up drinking and carousing until 15 minutes before your alarm rang, needs renewal. Like the sands of time, her dinner has dissolved and disappeared into the litter, and she’s so so hungry, and despite the desperate kneading of your back and YOU JUST KEEP LYING THERE.

I’m pretty sure that’s what Aurelius was getting at, right? But to dig a *little* deeper for a minute, what is the point of all this memento mori stuff? It’s about our most precious resource: time. One way to think about the different aspects of our psyche is in terms of our perception of time. Your passion only thinks about now, while your intellect ruminates on the past and plots about the future. But the governing mind, the angel on your shoulder, sees their relationship of each to the other, and that it’s all desperately finite: your timeline is bounded.

For me, that makes the new year an essential opportunity to recenter myself in the present, to survey the year behind and the year ahead, with the presence of mind to see the whole picture of what is truly important, where I want to go and who I want to be before I too dissolve and disappear. Aurelius would have us live every moment like that, which may be more than our modern psyche can bear, but everyone deserves to get at least one day a year like that.

If your cat will allow it, that is. Memento Meow.

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