|Marcus Aurelius [Source]|
I will die soon. Even the Emperor of mighty Rome is ultimately a feeble human being whose body will be consumed by the flames of time. Nothing will remain after that. Nothing. Nothing but the earth. The earth will cover us all. Then the earth too will change. And the things that result from the change will continue to change too. What is there to be priced in this world of transitoriness?
Be good. Do good to your fellow creatures. Nothing else really matters. Fame will mean nothing ultimately. Everyone who remembers you after your death too will die one day. Those who succeed them too will follow them soon. Memories of you will be extinguished totally. Even if there were means by which you could make the memories eternal, what would you gain? What can anything mean to the dead? Meaning itself has no meaning once you are dead.
Augustus is lost to history. His court is lost. So are his wife, daughter, descendants, ancestors, Agrippa, Areius, Maecenas, their physicians and their sacrificing priests. Not only the individuals, but whole races are lost to history. Where is Pompeii’s race today?
Even the gods cannot save history. They cannot change history. Neither the pride of Alexander nor the indolence of Diogenes is my way.
I will die soon. I will pass into nothingness. But I will die happily that I had a heart that was made wise through the right measure of pain and anxiety, fear and despair. Without my helplessness, without my awareness of my helplessness as a human being, I would not have made the space in my heart for the generosity that I valued much. It is in giving that I got what I wanted.
Now I’m giving up my life. Happily.
Note: Marcus Aurelius [26 April 121 – 17 March 180 CE] was the Emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 CE. The above lines are adapted from his book, Meditations.