Key Takeaway #3: Change is inevitable — everything has a fleeting existence
“Constant awareness that everything is born from change. The knowledge that there is nothing nature loves more than to alter what exists and make new things like it. All that exists is the seed of what will emerge from it.”— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.36
One essential tenet of philosophy that Marcus conveys numerous times in Meditations is the constantly changing nature of the world we live in and the acceptance of the ephemeralness of things, including our transient existence.
Change is the way of the universe. An acorn changes to become a plant and later into a mighty oak tree. We, humans, experience different stages of life: infancy, toddler years, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, and the senior years. And even the seasons keep changing throughout the year: winter, spring, summer, fall, and then winter again. Changes can be both good and bad, and as we encounter the more difficult changes in life, we must remind ourselves that change is the source of every good thing. Change is inevitable, and instead of resisting and fighting it, we must accept it willingly.
The changing of one thing into something else is never harmful to the universe. In fact, the universe itself had to undergo countless stages of change before the precise conditions for Life to exist were realized. Marcus wrote, “Nothing is evil which is according to nature.” On another occasion, he penned, “Loss is nothing but change, and change is nature’s delight.” Nothing or no one that exists in the universe, including us humans, can be harmed by change.
Marcus even gave a pep talk to himself to overcome the fear of change (including death) and embrace it with an open heart:
“Frightened of change? But what can exist without it? What’s closer to nature’s heart? Can you take a hot bath and leave the firewood as it was? Eat food without transforming it? Can any vital process take place without something being changed?
Can’t you see? It’s just the same with you—and just as vital to nature.”
When Marcus remembers the quote by Heraclitus that no one steps in the same river twice, it’s highly likely that he wasn’t just speaking metaphorically. He could have been spending his years in close proximity to the huge river in Carnatum or Aquincum, learning and re-learning numerous tenets of philosophy from his books, thinking about how everything is in flux and in a constant state of change, and how he himself is changing and growing a little every day as time passes.
It’s wise to remind ourselves that life is nothing but change. Like a river, the way of life is to constantly flow, and the best thing that we can do for ourselves is to not resist but simply go with the currents, wherever they may take us. Acceptance is the key to living a life filled with joy, ease, and contentment.