On Impermanence

I am aware that nothing lasts forever, but for some unaccountable reason I spent decades behaving as if my life has lasting relevance or meaning. The fact is, once I’m gone, the march of history will pave over and cover all  evidence of my ever having existed. Some shred of remembrance may temporarily  endure in the minds of a few who knew me, but all my memories will cease at my demise. And before long, even those who remember me will be long gone as well. And so it is with every living thing on this planet. 

I have seen and continue to see change in myself and others. Relationship dynamics change. Children change as they grow up. Adults change as they grow older. Friends, relatives and even enemies leave us, if we don’t leave them first. Autos rolling off the assembly line are before too long towed off to the junkyard. Fortunes are made and lost. Our pets grow old and leave us behind. Businesses that are worldwide and seem eternal disappear in bankruptcy. Empires are built and destroyed and forgotten. Whole countries and generations of people fade into oblivion.


Anyway, the point is, nothing, absolutely nothing, is permanent. 


“Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and sky” – Dust in the Wind by Kansas. 


Even the Earth and sky will be dissolved when the Sun either explodes or grows dark. There is no permanence anywhere in this Universe. 


So, knowing that everything is temporary, why do I ever get all worked up about obstacles in my life?  Why rant and rave when difficulties arise? It appears that the worst thing that can ever happen to someone is to die. And yet, I know for a fact that everyone alive will one day die. So, if the worst thing that can happen is definitely going to happen, why throw away peace of mind and tranquility in response to life events that are mere trifles when compared to an inevitable death? 


During the Stock Market crash of 1929, many people were reported to have dramatically jumped from office windows to their deaths. Suddenly losing their fortunes was, to them, unbearable. Yet, if they had thought more calmly about it, they might have considered that everybody in the world surrenders their fortunes at death. If everything I own is to be taken from me prior to my death, it will have just happened a little earlier than I expected, that's all. An inconvenient and disappointing situation to be sure, but definitely not catastrophic.  Why? Because nothing is permanent in this world except impermanence. Impermanence is not a catastrophe, it's reality. And, since life is so short, why waste precious moments seething over anything temporary?


"Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone—those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us—a chasm whose depths we cannot see. So it would take an idiot to feel self-importance or distress. Or any indignation, either. As if the things that irritate us lasted." — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.23


Now, having said all that, if someone honestly enjoys feeling miserable every time an unexpected or unplanned change occurs in their life, then fretting and fuming about the unfairness of life might make sense. I mean, if that is fun to someone, it’s fun. I, however, at this late stage of my life, find more joy in quiet reverie than in dramatic displays of frustration. Especially when it is clear that change and impermanence is inevitable and completely outside my control.

“Ask yourself the question, ‘Will this matter a year from now?’ ” --  
Richard Carlson, author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff


Yet, to each his or her own. I have my views on how to best to navigate my life and others have their views on how best to navigate theirs. I wish others well in their life journeys and I hope they will wish me well in mine. 


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