oblivion is inevitable

What do most of us run after in this modern world? Wealth, status, power, fame, recognition, pleasure, material desires. In fact, we make it a mission of our lives to attain one or more of them and hustle day in and day out to achieve them. 

Ambition is not a bad thing, but we must also understand all these things listed above are transient and making their pursuit a chief goal in our lives is downright stupid.

If you’re seeking immortality through your actions, or want to be praised, respected and recognized posthumously, then it’s a vain pursuit. This is what Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius explains in Meditations: “How many after being celebrated by fame have been given up to oblivion; and how many who have celebrated the fame of others have long been dead.”

He also writes, “Consider that as the heaps of sand piled on one another hide the former sands, so in life the events which go before are soon covered by those which come after.”

Oblivion is inevitable. Countless men and women — famous, wealthy and powerful during their respective times — have been forgotten. Sands of time have erased their names, their faces, their stories and their achievements. Do you think you’ll be an anomaly in this continuous cycle of old and new?

Fame is ephemeral, and it’s nothing but vanity in the big picture. It doesn’t matter how mighty your accomplishments are and how resounding your success and fame is, they’ll all get dissolved in the end.

So if fame and desires are empty pursuits, what should we prioritize in our finite life? The short answer is virtuous living. Marcus Aurelius as well as other Stoics advocate living in accordance with virtue and considered being and doing good as the primary job of a human being.

Let go of praise, of credit and recognition, of incessant unconscious materialism, of the endless pursuit of power and wealth. Instead, focus on being good, cultivating wisdom, lowering your expectations, living the present moment fully, practicing self-control and doing the right thing no matter what.