The safety of life is this, to examine everything all through, what it is itself, what is its material, what the formal part; with all thy soul to do justice and to say the truth. What remains except to enjoy life by joining one good thing to another so as not to leave even the smallest intervals between?
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.29
Life is life. It happens every day, with or without our input. Every day is made up of small events that we string together in our waking hours. I would say that most of these events are unglamorous: brushing your teeth, what you eat for breakfast, your commute to work, relaxing at home. They are just a point of existence in a day. They still hold importance, for sure, but those aren’t the moments we focus on.
On your commute to work, a millennial pulls out in front of you while she is texting and driving. A little blue-haired lady with a handicapped placard is going 15 miles an hour under the speed limit. An overcompensation of a diesel truck rides your tailgate and then flies around you, giving you the finger as his show of appreciation. These little moments are the ones that make you lose sight of the glorious sunrise, that first cup of coffee, the soft words or lips of your significant other, your ever-faithful cat reminding you how hungry he is and that he loves you.
This is where the examination comes into play for me. Using the above examples, I have to step back and realize that I have no idea what it is like living a second in the shoes of the drivers who have “wronged” me. The young girl texting may have been responding to a genuine emergency. Being able to get out and drive is the elderly woman’s last means of independence, that she could be on her way to see a shut-in or to place flowers on her husband’s gravestone. The man’s misplaced anger would be the toughest pill for me to swallow, but he might have a good reason.
Who knows the inner workings of another person’s heart and mind? Who knows their pain, fear, burdens? The answer is only for them. Sometimes the truth that you are searching for in a moment is that you only know your truth, your way of making the situation or event more positive.
I think what Marcus Aurelius was saying here is to take all those small moments we have and strive to make them a continuous event, a life of happiness. We do true justice to ourselves and to others by examining events, ourselves and our opinions on those events by being truthful. Having the courage to tell yourself the truth is tantamount to attaining happiness. Alcohol caused me to weave a never-ending web of lies to myself and everyone around me, which served no justice to anyone involved. It wasn’t until I stopped lying to myself that I could stop lying to others. I am learning to use past transgressions to create a new standard of little moments, taking negatives and not dwelling on them but knowing that they are there and growing from them.
Memento Mori. Live this day the best you can. Change what you can, leave what you can not. It’s perfectly acceptable to not control everything. Examine yourself and cast not the first stone.