The time of a man’s life is as a point; the substance of it ever flowing, the sense obscure; and the whole composition of the body tending to corruption.
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Marcus Aurelius knew he would inhabit this Earth for a finite period of time. He wrestled with the understanding that his body would eventually break down and die. He was okay with that, because of the manner in which he lived.
The second law of thermodynamics states, “that the entropy of any isolated system always increases.” More simply, everything naturally tends toward disorder.
The computer I use to type these words will eventually break down, even with careful maintenance. It will heat up, expand, contract. The battery will drain, be charged, and drain again. At no point in the “life” of my computer will it become newer. It has a finite amount of time existing as it does. Eventually, it too, will break down and succumb to the same fate as all other things.
Having accepted that my time here is limited, how will I spend my time? I find a great amount of solace and purpose in studying philosophy. Which Marcus Aurelius would heartily endorse:
Philosophy doth consist in this, for a man to preserve that spirit which is within him from all manner of contumelies and injuries, and above all pains or pleasures, or resignedly, or hypocritically: wholly to depend from himself and his own proper actions: all things that happen unto him to embrace contentedly, […] and above all things, with a meekness and a calm cheerfulness, to expect death, as being nothing else but the resolution of those elements, of which every creature is composed.
Depression acquainted me with my internal spirit. I spent countless hours debating with myself about the merit of my life. Generally, those arguments tended toward self-oblivion. Entropy, as in the physical world, is also present in the mind. A mind that can resist that force requires maintenance.
I must work to “preserve that spirit” within me from insult and injury.
The study of philosophy, and writing about how to think better is part of my battle against the forces of my mind that would have me extinguish my life before my time is truly done. Starting my week with Stoicism, and remembering that I will die (Memento Mori), is how I stare my mental illnesses in the face.
Doing this, I avoid nihilism. I avoid self-harm. I avoid despair.
Instead, I maintain my spirit. I maintain my body. I maintain my mind.