All is in the course of change; and you yourself are constantly changing and, in a sense, passing away; and so too is the entire universe. – Marcus Aurelius, from the book Meditations, IX. 19
What does that mean?
The sad thing about the quote is that it is absent of context. It exists in Meditations as just that single line. To me, it means many things, but deals mostly with the certainty of change. The quote starts by reminding us that everything is always changing.
The quote continues by reminding us that we are part of everything, that we are changing. Each day we find new experiences, new ideas, and new opportunities availing us. We learn, we try, we succeed, we fail, and we adapt.
And in this change, the person we used to be dies just a little. Like old hair or old skin cells die and fall away, aspects of ourselves which are no longer useful pass from us. We change, we grow, and at the same time, we let go of that which we no longer need or want.
The quote finishes by saying the entire universe is doing the same thing. In the nearly two millenia since this quote was written, stars have died, some in spectacular explosions, some more quietly. Yet the universe, changed as it is, continues onward. As do we all.
Why is accepting change important?
Yes, some change you want, like from a vending machine. Other change you don’t want, like middle age weight gain. However, some things are a fact of life. If you don’t want the change, you will have to work harder to hold it off. Like middle age weight gain, you will have to stay active and hold the line on your eating habits. That will help you maintain your weight, but your body will still change.
Some changes simply cannot be stopped. We will forget things, we will lose our keys. We will learn things about others which will change how we view them, for better or worse. As we age, things about our physical selves will change as well. When we reach our certain age, we die. There is no stopping that change, for everything that lives will eventually die.
If we understand that, we can come to terms with change. That doesn’t mean we cannot fight to slow the change, it just means we know where things end. Everything will change, given enough time. Even the mountains will become hills, then blow away as sand. We don’t have to like it, we just need to accept it, and move on with our lives.
Where can I apply this in my life?
The distant friend I spoke of in a prior post recently passed, and this quote came to me via an unrelated channel. Call it synchronicity, a statistical aberration, or divine intervention, but here it is. For me, this quote helps me understand that I’m not the first to contemplate the passing of things.
We all have changes going on in our lives. If nothing else, our biological clocks are ticking. We age. Some things become easier, others become more difficult. We adapt, we alter our habits, and we accommodate these changes as best we can. And in adapting to the changes, we change again.
With this change, part of us parts ways with us, or passes away. I used to be a skate boarder, and did a lot of crazy things on a bicycle. With time, I became more of a road biker. I still have a skateboard, but it’s mostly used for moving furniture. I have changed, adapted.
What has changed in your life recently? What are some of the big changes which have happened in your life? How have you adapted to them? Are you still adapting to them? What else will follow, logically, from the changes which have already occurred?
I’ve been having more and more trouble with my joints in the last few years, and I have been making some changes related to what I do and how often I do them. I’m also taking supplements which, in theory, will help me stave off the changes for a little while. But I know that my level of activity will eventually be curtailed somewhat by these pending limitations.
What about you, what did you find? What do you expect to see sooner, and what might be out there, waiting for you later on? Change will happen, there is no preventing it. However, if we think and plan, we can adapt to some of the changes.
Other changes, well there is just no way to truly prepare for them. There is no stopping them, and we will simply have to deal with them, and with the consequences they bring. Have you experienced any of these changes in your life recently? Have you experienced them in the past?
What can you learn from what you have done, and what lessons can you apply to the present? If we can learn from our experiences, we can hope to make change a little less painful, right? What notes might you want to write down as advice to the future you on how to handle some of these changes?
Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. How we handle it, that is another matter entirely. The quote is from a Stoic, so you know how they would handle it. More importantly, you know yourself, and how you will handle it.