“So we must have a sense of urgency, no only for the ever closer approach of death, but also because our comprehension of the world and our ability to pay proper attention will face before we do” – Meditations 3.1
I am disagreeing with Marcus Aurelius here. If all things are timed as they should be by the workings of Providence and all things happen for a reason, so do our lives. Rushing or panicking to complete things that may or may not need be done out of some heightened awareness of mortality doe not make the thing anymore important. A rushed job is not worth doing. I do agree with the following statement from 2.11:
“You may leave this life at any moment: have this possibility in your mind in all you do or say or think.”
Yet, if I do have this in mind, where is the need for urgency? If I’ve said all I needed to say, thought what I’ve needed to think and done what I’ve had to do, what’s the rush to do anything else? In bed on a Saturday morning, I’ve said all I needed to say (often nothing), done what I’ve needed to do (again often nothing), and thought what I needed to think (again nothing if I’m feeling particularly meditative). While Descartes may not be the model stoic, not being stoic at all, he did his best work in bed. So did Casanova but that’s another story. I’m not making excuses for procrastination, I’m just not seeing the point of a momento mori if I truly, amor fati.
I prefer another great bearded man’s words when it comes to such things:
“A wizard is never late. Nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.” – Gandalf.
Maybe I’m a loathsome sloth but I see no reason to rush anything nor do I feel a sense of great urgency with my own life. Clocks tell me time passes and I live by them because I must as a part of society. I don’t begrudge this, it is what it is but if I’m going to be honest, I’d happily keep track of time by the increase of wrinkles on my forehead. If I am to go at any moment, what’s the use of being morbid about it and rushing from one objective to the next? Despite Gandalf being an immortal wizard being, Marcus Aurelius also said in 2.14:
“The longest lives and shortest lives are brought to the same state.”
“The longest lived and earliest to die suffer the same loss.”
If I am to live in accordance with Nature, I am to trust it’s course. Perhaps it’s a privileged position to take. I live in a country with universal healthcare (for now) and have no conditions of concern. I have a relatively stable home life and my responsibilities extend to keeping my room clean and paying a rather measly sum for board each month. Yet still in this rather typical mediocrity of lower-middle class Britain, I am aware of my own mortality.
So I disagree with the belief of Marcus Aurelius and perhaps many a stoic. Watching the Doomsday Clock of my own life tick does not push me to action faster than my own motivation, inspiration, direction. Call me a hippy waste of space, a lay about, a lost lamb of the Summer of 69 born nearly 3 decades late. That’s your opinion yet I still find myself doing what I need to do, saying what I need to say and thinking what I need to think with a sense of ease, not urgency nor panic. I may be taking the Emperor too literally, I may be misinterpreting what he’s saying – of course, I’m open to that possibility.
In the meantime, I’ll be taking a leisurely stroll to the finish line, smelling the roses and coffee and all that shit. Why run? I’ve never been one for running. For one, I don’t have the right shoes.