“Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do this anymore?” —Marcus Aurelius
Time waits for no man.
This is something my father always said, though perhaps misinterpreted on his behalf. The sentiment stands true to its core meaning, however, in that death is coming to us all. Perhaps in our later years, peacefully, in our sleep; perhaps in a hospital bed after suffering illness and disease; or perhaps still by some random disaster, accident, or freak occurrence, as early as tomorrow or the next day.
The only thing guaranteed to us in this life is that it surely runs out, and we have no control over the how and when. The one true currency that cannot be earned, manipulated, or regained in any way. Though sadly this currency is constantly spent without any means of earning back the loss, we can make sure its invested wisely and spent on the things that matter most to us.
In short, the only things we should be spending our time on are the things that make us smile. The things that enhance our lives while we have them. Should we waste time on relationships where the partner is unequal in their effort to bring happiness? Should we grind our souls down to dust as we work mindlessly for pounds and pence?
There is no true reason, no true sense, in spending our time in any area where the investment doesn’t have the kind of pay off that brings peace and happiness to our souls.
Of course this can, and indeed should, involve career advancement, education, and the accumulation of wealth, but only insofar as our needs are met and we fall asleep smiling.
“Were all the geniuses of history to focus on this single theme, they could never fully express their bafflement at the darkness of the human mind. No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives—worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.” —Seneca
In the knowledge that our lives are most certainly ending, with each passing second, minute, and hour, we must do our best to savour those precious moments. Seek out the thrilling, the impactful, the powerful. Find meaning in the moment, work in accordance with our desires and dreams, and waste no time on the painful, the wasteful, or the meaningless.
While we have no control over our end, or no clue of how much time we have left, we hold a firm grip of how we spend that fleeting gift, regardless of whether that time is as little as a day or as much as another fifty years.
We must take it upon ourselves to remind ourselves of our mortality in each moment we feel unsatisfied with our lives. We must take control of our time with as much efficiency as we can manage. We must remember that every time we lend our time to others, we are giving the most precious gift of all.
Time, truly, waits for no man.