At this moment in time, in history, it’s worth pausing for a moment to check in with this post from Ryan Holiday (picture below), author of the Daily Stoic.
Thursday, was the anniversary of the death of one of humanity’s greatest specimens. On March 17th, 180 AD, Marcus Aurelius breathed his last breath. Known as the philosopher king, he was the Emperor of Rome at the time.
We don’t know exactly what his last words were. But the simple paragraph which concludes his famous Meditations reads as if the man wrote it as he faced the very real and immediate end of his existence, and therefore stands as inspiration and solace to all of us still living today.
“You’ve lived as a citizen in a great city. Five years or a hundred—what’s the difference? The laws make no distinction.
And to be sent away from it, not by a tyrant or a dishonest judge, but by Nature, who first invited you in—why is that so terrible?
Like the impresario ringing down the curtain on an actor:
“But I’ve only gotten through three acts . . . !”
Yes. This will be a drama in three acts, the length fixed by the power that directed your creation, and now directs your dissolution. Neither was yours to determine.
So make your exit with grace—the same grace shown to you.”
Coming to terms with our own selves, is one of the challenges of our time, when there are so many things to distract us or suggestions about what fashionable image we should project.
Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, Cato–all the Stoics knew the wonderful but fleeting pleasures we have been talking about. They saw the world. They achieved much professionally. But most impressively, they possessed themselves. They were able to retreat, as Marcus said, into their own souls. They knew themselves. They commanded the greatest empire, as Seneca said, by controlling themselves.