Monday, July 25, 2022

Time is a River (Hot Stoic Summer)

Awhile back I promised you all this would be Hot Stoic Summer and today decided it was time to drop some knowledge nuggets. I have been reading and tremendously enjoying Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. There might be more wisdom per page of that book than anything else that I have ever read.

It's a comforting read because Aurelius time and again reminds me that it's essential to prioritize what matters and that I should stop worrying so much about what I can't control. One of my favorite themes is his idea that time is a river. By this he means that time is constantly moving and changing and it can't be stopped. For that reason trying to oppose it will only lead to frustration and suffering. Change is constant, and we must accustom ourselves to it if we are going to have a good life. Either learn to swim with the current, or drown.

I feel that this is an especially important message for people in middle age. At this stage in life people tend to get set in their ways, and to fear and resent change. I see this behavior around me all of the time. People who love music but dismiss anything current. People who see the younger generation doing things differently then getting angry and defensive. It is important to internalize the reality that change is going to come whether you like it or not, and trying to stop it is just going to make you miserable. 

In my mind I have been stretching the metaphor a bit to think of life as a river journey. Growing up my family would take trips up to Valentine, Nebraska, and canoe, kayak, or tube down the Niobrara River. I have returned twice since (including last year) and still enjoy it tremendously. You get on the river in one place, float down for awhile, then get off somewhere down the line. Sometimes it's a long journey, sometimes it's short. Either way, it ends, but the river keeps flowing. The river pays no mind, it will roll on forever. What are a few rafters to this mighty, eternal thing? 

Likewise we have our journey through life, but we make little impact on our surroundings. When we are gone, things will go on as before, as if we were never even here. That might sound depressing, but to me it is liberating. Live in the present, since that's all that we've got. 

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