Marcus Aurelius on time and man’s significance

In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius provides us with a very sobering view of one’s own significance. In a powerful way, he speaks to the need for each of us to seize the moment, live each day as if it’s our last, and appreciate the lightness of our being. Here are a few remarkable statements about time and man’s significance:

  • Do not act as if thou wert going to live then thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good.
  • Consider thyself to be dead, and to have completed thy life up to the present time; and live according to nature the remainder which is allowed thee.
  • Short then is the time which every man lives, and small the nook of the earth where he lives; and short, too, the longest posthumous fame, and even this only continued by a succession of poor human beings, who will very soon die, and who know not even themselves, much less him who died long ago.
  • Everything is only for a day, both that which remembers and that which is remembered.
  • Time is like a river made up of the events which happen, and a violent stream; for as soon as a thing has been seen, it is carried away, and another comes in its place, and this will be carried away too.


(ed. – Excerpts taken from a 1862 translation by George Long.)


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