Happy Birthday, Marcus

‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’ to Marcus Aurelius. Born on this day in 121 CE (1,898 years since his birth and still relevant!). Celebrate by reading from his Meditations or discussing it with others.

I think Marcus would celebrate by contemplating his own mortality and taking stock of the brevity of life. Here’s a passage that’s trending today in the online Stoic communities:

“Think constantly how many doctors have died, after knitting their brows over their own patients; how many astrologers, after predicting the deaths of others, as if death were something important; how many philosophers, after endless deliberation on death or immortality; how many heroes, after using their power over men’s lives with monstrous insolence, as if they themselves were immortal . . . Go over now all those you have known yourself, one after the other: one man follows a friend’s funeral and is then laid out himself, then another follows him – and all in a brief space of time. The conclusion of this? You should always look on human life as short and cheap. Yesterday sperm: tomorrow a mummy or ashes. . . So one should pass through this tiny fragment of time in tune with nature, and leave it gladly, as an olive might fall when ripe, blessing the earth which bore it and grateful to the tree which gave it growth.”

Meditations 4.48; trans. Hammond

Resist the tendency to focus on the negative. Yes, we are all going to die… and relatively soon — that’s not pessimism, it’s a fact… But this is also a fact: scarcity increases the value of good things and makes them more precious… So focus and dwell especially on the last sentence of what Marcus is saying… and then go celebrate today as if it was YOUR birthday.

Every day is precious. Have a good one.

– Justin K.


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