"...the longest lived and the shortest lived man, when they come to die, lose one and the same thing..."
Why Marcus Aurelius's sense of death cheers me up...
While out of town this weekend I stopped into a Borders to look for a particular edition of Marcus's Meditations which I had begun reading one night many moons ago. I had accompanied a friend there, and though I can't remember what the motivation was, I ended up picking up this volume out of the many translations that exist. It was an expensive little hardcover number that I couldn't afford at the time, and disappeared by the next time I stopped in. This time, on whim, I looked for it, and though a year or two later, there it was on the shelf. This time I picked it up.
For some reason, the book sticks with me. I had already read the first three or so books, and reading them again, I still knew a lot of the text.
My one editorial comment would be that Marcus talks an awful lot about the fact that we're all gonna die. Now, I have no problem with that statement, and the carpe diem sentiment that accompanies it throughout the book. He just says it and revisits it an awful lot.
Nevertheless, he's a man after my own heart.
I'm gonna die. You're gonna die.
I take it one further: You're gonna get old too. But I refuse to digress...yet.
So yeah, we all gonna die. What's the big deal?
First of all, I've already told you that I think there are too many people in the world. I don't think anyone needs to be killed to alleviate that problem. I just think we need to keep the birthrate low. Half of that should come from any large number of people who don't have any business having kids in the first place. I would think that there's enough would-be hipsters (male and female) out there who would be horrified at the thought of looking like any number of embarrassing mobile stroller carrying-pack baby factories out there in public. (How is it that previous generations got away without carrying all that sh!t around? And of course, public behavior wise, they also knew how to keep their collective brats under control.) Anyhow, it doesn't take a great mathmetician to see how two people having one kid (or none) would go along way toward that goal.
(That having been said, I would like to have one myself some day...when I'm ready on more levels. That's important.)
Oh yeah, Death the common denominator.
Now I don't want anyone to die a horrible death, but let's face it, it's going to happen regardless. I just wish that people could face it with a little more dignity and respect for the process of nature and life. That's why I like Irish wakes and New Orleans style funerals, celebrations of someone's life and a celebration of death. It's what I want.
I've had a few important people in my life pass away. Yes, I was sad. Yes, I mourned them. But I'm gonna tell you, it was for an awfully short amount of time.
My sister for instance gave me my first cigarette, my first beer, and was generally responsible for all sorts of shenanigans when my parents were out of town which she often allowed me to join in. She took me to concerts. She gave me a hard time. She let me hang out with the older kids from time to time, and she loved to joke around with my friends. Now all that fun and vivacity might make it seem like there's a big old blank hole in my life without her. Not true. Why? Because she wouldn't want it that way, and I didn't take her death that way. I can't even claim that I miss her exactly. Sometimes I definitely do, but for the most part I think about what she was like and run with it.
I should also mention that she died in a non-too pleasant good while in the hospital kind of way, and so I know something of that too. It was by no means the worst, but the fact that she was getting better when it happened was something of a blow. Still, I'm still here and I'm still going.
That's where the carpe diem stuff comes in. I don't remember who said "never let the sun go down on an argument," but I think whoever it was would have appreciated if people believed in it more than just bandy it around. I've hesitated in my life and hidden things I should have just said. I still do. But I try not to let anything rest on a bad note. Fighting's a part of life, but if you're gonna do it: a) have a reason, and b) settle it as quickly as possible. If it can't be resolved, then you gotta figure out something else like abandoning it or accepting it.
Marcus also says:
"How base and putrid, every common matter is! Water, dust, and from the mixture of these bones, and all that loathsome stuff that our bodies do consist of: so subject to be infected, and corrupted...Gold and silver, what are they, but as the more gross feces of the earth? Your most royal apparel, for matter, it is but as it were the hair of a silly sheep... Thy life itself, is some such thing too; a mere exhalation of blood..."
You know, I can respect rocks. We're made up of the same stuff as rocks, only we eat and breathe and sh!t. Stuff like that. All religious concepts aside: you came from the earth, and your headed back there. All the stuff you surround yourself with, it's no more or less precious. What's funny to me is that most folks have put a weird and unbalanced value on human life, too much wrongly focused value on animal life, and even more value on money and materialistic items.
The funniest one to me is the emphasis put on money and power. The reason it's funny is that ultimately money and power are completely intangible. Yes, I realize that money is printed on a tangible medium, but what it represents is literally nothing. It's a substitute for value. Hence I don't believe that everything should be free as it has value, but money only has as much value in it as you believe it does.
I know that sounds unrealistically idealistic. The fact is, even if you don't believe it, as long as the rest of the world believes in money, and believes in it so much. I need money too.
But think about it: how is that a gumball whose chemical contents haven't changed much in the past fifty years were once a cent and are now twenty five cents or more? Why wasn't Babe Ruth paid the millions and millions of dollars that Alex Rodriguez is for essentially doing the same thing (PLAYING A F*CKING GAME! Sorry.)? Why are there so many millionaires now when ten fifteen years ago it was a big deal? And as cheap and disposal as everything is today, why does it cost so much more than stuff made a hundred years ago that still works as well today?
Anyhow, my point was going to be, why do people believe in things that are so empty, and yet they can't believe in God, or any other higher power? Don't get me wrong. Lots of people go to churches and temples and whatnot. Lots of people own Bibles, Torahs, and Quarans. But you search a lot of those peoples hearts and souls, and there's no real commitment toward really believing in anything outside of what was right in front of them.
That doesn't go for everyone. I think a lot of those terrorists out there are wrong minded and off about what they believe...but at least you can tell that they believe in it. If we had as much focus and commitment, but also contentment in what we had...we probably wouldn't have so much trouble.
I think that goes a long long way to explain why we are afraid to die. If you don't believe in anything beyond what's in front of you, then you obviously don't want to lose the reality you have. The funny thing is that most people either endlessly complain about their reality or in reality really hate it...but they wouldn't give it up. I think people's lack of faith, even just in other people or in themselves has helped to make the world's mentality very sick.
In the end (cause I gotta wrap this up), living every day like it's your last is sound advice up to a point. It doesn't mean to be reckless, rob banks, drive off a cliff, and go out in a blaze of glory. To me, it means take care of your business. Take care of work. Take care of family and friends. Take care of yourself. Get things done. Set goals and Meet them. It's all of that. Most importantly there are "don'ts". Don't be excessive in anything. Don't watch tv all the time, but don't read books all the time either. Don't eat a bunch of crap, but you can't live your whole life working out either. Learn, but learn from everything.
Ok. Whatever. I wanted to talk death, and now I feel like an "Up with Humanity" life coach.