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     “Death is our friend,” the poet Rilke wrote in a letter to a friend in 1923, “precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love.” And yet one of the defining features of the human condition is that we long for immortality despite inhabiting a universe governed by impermanence.

     Eighteen centuries before Rilke, the great Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius clearly addressed this abiding human paradox of life and death in his Meditations (public library | free ebook)...

Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.

Cold or warm.
Tired or well-rested.
Despised or honored.
Dying … or busy with other assignments.


      Because dying, too, is one of our assignments in life- there as well: “to do what needs doing.”In another meditation, he revisits the question of our inescapable impermanence:

Some things are rushing into existence, others out of it.

Some of what now exists is already gone.

Change and flux constantly remake the world,

Just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.


We find ourselves in a river.

Which of the things around us should we value

when none of them can offer a firm foothold?



The only thing that isn’t worthless:

to live this life out truthfully and rightly.

And be patient with those who don’t.

      "Meditations is the kind of read that stays with you for a lifetime and rewards anew with each rereading." -Maria Popova)

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