I recently saw a meme quoting Mac Anderson that read, “You are always one choice away from changing your life.” I don’t know much about the author or the originality of his idea, but the essence of the quote can be found millennia ago.
Marcus Aurelius wrote something very similar in his diary. In book four of his Meditations, Aurelius reminds us to look at things through the mortal lens and keep our focus on human capability. Building on this theme, he encourages us to keep two important elements in mind: the fickle nature of our opinions and the rate at which our world changes.
In his first statement about opinion, Aurelius wrote that much of what happens does not affect our souls. Instead, these events remain outside our will. We get mad and lose our human composure when we focus on the things outside of our control and form opinions, emotions, or faulty thoughts based on our limited view.
The second reminder he offers is that everything we know, think, believe, and feel will inevitably change in due course. I am reminded of the singer-songwriter Jewel, who said, “Everything is temporary if you give it enough time.”
Aurelius wrote that we should look back on human history and recognize the immense transformations we’ve already seen. He wrote this almost two millennia ago. He didn’t even experience the printing press, the telephone, or the space shuttle. He wrote these thoughts in his private diary yet we share his thoughts on the Internet as a global remedy to our first-world problems.
The last part of this section is the most poignant. To paraphrase several renditions, Aurelius wrote, “The world is change; life is opinion.”
You can take this statement in two ways. One is to feel that everything is meaningless in light of its changing status, and the truth is pointless in light of our opinions. The other is to accept the change with openness, understanding it as part of our human condition. You must also realize that so much of our perceptions of truth, reality, the real world as it were, is merely how we feel about it.
Circling back to the meme I mentioned in the beginning, you have the power to change your life by accepting the wayward winds of time and choosing to live in the present. Reflect on human history and “remember thou art mortal.” Use that reminder to change your opinion about the day and get on with your life.
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