It has been quite a month and quite a quarter in many respects. After a stint in Community Service for Covid, I was back tending to on-going commitments at the Daily Outsider as I also worked away on working (I hope) to finish off my Doctorate in Public Administration along with commitments at CalGuard, I also worked on assessing my Personal Artifacts Collection & Personal Library.
At the height of his powers, King Pyrrhus was killed by a roof tile, thrown by an old woman, as he conquered another city. In 1967, Harold Holt, the prime minister of Australia, went out for a swim in the ocean and simply never came back.
We like to think that power, that fame, that greatness, that money can protect us from the whims of fate, but of course it can’t. We lost Kobe Bryant to a helicopter crash. Stevie Ray Vaughn too. John Lennon was killed by a deranged twerp. John F. Kennedy by one too.
All the accomplishments, all the wonderful contributions to humanity, all the years they had left to live and gifts left to give—suddenly gone, cut off before their time. All the ambition, all the mountains they had their sights on climbing? Gone.
It was Juvenal who said that the whole world had not seemed big enough to contain Alexander the Great. Then suddenly, in an instant, a coffin was sufficient. No matter how big we are, we can get cut down to size. We will get cut down to size. It’s not a matter of if, only when.
That’s why we say to ourselves, several times a day, memento mori. That’s why we study history. That’s why we read these texts. To remind ourselves of that inescapable fact that our ego wants to constantly ignore—that we are fragile humans. Whether we are an emperor like Marcus Aurelius or a slave like Epictetus, we are at the mercy of forces we cannot predict, let alone control.
We are mortal. We don’t have forever. We are not invincible.