Remember You Will Die
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately reflecting on how short life is. Death is a reality for all of us - you WILL die. None of us knows how soon that day will be. And the things I choose to spend my time doing today may well be the final things I do on this earth, standing as the final page of my chapter in this story of life that’s been written by person after person before me, and that will be picked up and carried forward by many others after me.
They were people exactly like you and I. We may have cell phones in our pockets now. We have Google Maps and air planes and can travel to space. But the core of who we are as people, as humans, as part of the complex web of life that lives on this planet, is unchanged.
Maybe nothing shows this better than the book Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 AD. These are his personal journal writings, not meant for any eye to see besides himself. He was the emperor of the greatest nation in the world in his time. All power was his. What he said, happened. Any luxury he wanted? There in an instant.
Meanwhile, living in 2023, I have more luxury and comfort than he ever had (thank you air conditioning!) Any information I want is 3 seconds away. Any corner of the planet reachable in less than a day. Delicious food from dozens of cuisines can be delivered to my house with no effort on my part. For power and influence? I have none. My power over others is limited to myself and sometimes my wife when I ask nicely. The decisions I make don’t change the fate of millions of people. The worlds we live in are very, very different.
Yet as I read the words he wrote to himself in his journal, I feel like he could be writing directly for ME. I hear the sound of another soul grappling with what it means to live a meaningful life as a human on this planet. On what it means to be good, on our relationship with others, on our relationship with God. And in his words I find constant reminders to himself that time is slipping away. That old age and death are coming, as they come for all, and all the great plans and dreams that I have will be lost with them. If I’m going to achieve them, I must not wait. I must do it now.
Here’s an example of what he reminded himself:
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
“Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”
“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what's left and live it properly. What doesn't transmit light creates its own darkness.”
Time is not on my side. It came for Marcus, and it will come for me. What will I do with it? Will I take the gifts God has given to me, the talents he’s entrusted to me, and the time he’s allotted me and use them well? Or will I give up because it is hard, become distracted again with one more YouTube video, and be content with a life of comfort instead of purpose?
Time will tell.