“Were you to live three thousand years, or even a countless multiple of that, keep in mind that no one ever loses a life other than the one they are living, and no one ever lives a life other than the one they are losing. The longest and the shortest life, then, amount to the same, for the present moment lasts the same for all and is all anyone possesses. No one can lose either the past or the future, for how can someone be deprived of what’s not theirs?”MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 2.14
The quote from today’s entry in The Daily Stoic is all about living in the present — and how the present is all you ever have, anyways.
You can’t live a different life than the one you’re currently living. And you can’t have a future that belongs to someone else, or even an alternate version of your own future. The past is likewise unchangeable.
Ryan Holiday points out that obsesssing over the past or the future is actually a form of ungratefulness, by definition. I hadn’t considered that. That’s important, because being regularly thankful is one of the most important things you can do. Nothing has had a more profound impact on my own day-to-day experience of life than intentionally setting aside time to be grateful.
One of my dad’s favorite phrases was, “Tomorrow never comes.” It was mostly semantic wordplay, because as soon as tomorrow arrives, it’s instantly ‘today’. But there’s truth in the phrase too: all we ever have is the present. Enjoy the present with reverence and justice, because it’s all we possess — the future and the past don’t belong to us.
To be honest, lately I’ve been living too much in the future. I wrote about it last month, discussing the banquet of life and how we have to accept each dish as it’s given to us, and not yearn for the dish that has already passed us by or is yet to come.
But I’ve been thinking about a big upcoming change for my family, and probably trying to control it more than I should. Of course, the present is right now. I don’t possess the future, even though I keep trying to. I should keep that in mind, and live right now. It’s all I have.