For the Tiny Remainder

‘We inevitably waste most of each day in eating and drinking, defecating, sleeping, talking and walking about. For the tiny remainder of our time, we do worthless things, speak worthless words, think worthless thoughts. And not only do we pass the moments in this way, but whole days, whole months, pass thus – a lifetime. This is supreme folly…Lose for a moment your grasp of the passing instant and you are as good as dead. You ask why time should be son precious? It is so that you may concentrate the mind on banishing all idle thoughts, refrain from engaging in worldly matters and meditate if this is what you choose, or perform austerities if that is your chosen path.’

Yoshida Kenko, Essays in Idleness, translated Meredith McKinney.

‘Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no life except the one he loses. This means that the longest life except and the shortest amount to the same thing. For the passing minute is every man’s equal possession, but what has gone by is not ours.

In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapours; life a warfare,a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute, oblivion.’

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, translated by Maxwell Staniforth.


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