The Present is All We Ever Have

I enjoy studying Philosophy.

It took me six years to scratch the surface of some of the lives that led to great epithets, famed stories, sage guidance and perpetual wisdom both intentionally and unknowingly gifted to the masses by the great Philosophers who’ve come before us.

Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Will Durant, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Descartes. We should aim to study their wisdom and realize how little we really know and understand (a daily habit for me).

I did, however, find one lesson that has started to sink in. In doing so, it has reshaped my view on my own life and the time I am gifted each day. It’s my hope that in sharing it with you you’ll have a similar experience.

All we have is this present moment. Nothing more and nothing less. But let me explain how these words took root in my soul and began to awaken my spirit each day rather than just bouncing around in my head like a hollow ball thrown down a vacant hallway.

I always realized life was precious and so was our time here on Earth. This concept is a shared experience among us all, however, for me it was solidified in studying the following quote from Marcus Aurelius’ MEDITATIONS, 2.14:

“Were you to live three thousand years, or even a countless multiple of that, keep in mind that no one ever loses a life other than the one they are living, and no one ever lives a life other than the one they are losing. The longest and the shortest life, then, amount to the same, for the present moment lasts the same for all and is all anyone possesses. No one can lose either the past or the future, for how can someone be deprived of what’s not theirs?”

The above translation was borrowed from The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, a book of daily meditations on Stoicism.

Here’s another translation, this one by George Long on

“Though thou shouldest be going to live three thousand years, and as many times ten thousand years, still remember that no man loses any other life than this which he now lives, nor lives any other than this which he now loses. The longest and shortest are thus brought to the same. For the present is the same to all, though that which is past is not the same; and so that which is lost appears to be a mere moment. For a man cannot lose either the past or the future: for what a man has not, how can any one take this from him? These two things then thou must bear in mind; the one, that all things from eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle, and that it makes no difference whether a man shall see the same things during a hundred years or two hundred, or an infinite time; and the second, that the longest liver and he who will die soonest lose just the same. For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that this is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose a thing if he has it not.”

Why is this excerpt so eye opening? Because it makes you stop and realize that this moment, the one in which you are sitting comfortably or reading anxiously, is all any of us have. That, in it’s own way, is freeing.

What was it that distracted me from absorbing this idea and living with it’s truth on a daily basis during those first six years I tried to study Philosophy? Or study much of anything for that matter?

It was all of the noise. I was constantly thinking of the future or worried about decisions that had been made in the past. My mind was never present.

You can’t cry over spilled milk. It is a saying that should guide us. Forget the things that have already happened and can’t be changed.

But many people do cry over things that are over and done with… for years. Some spend an entire lifetime, hundreds and thousands of moments in time, doing just that.

Others fantasize and dream about the future (which can be a good thing) but never come back to the present to take action (a bad thing).

So this is my gift to you, today, right here and now.

The realization that we only have now. This very moment in time. It’s all we ever have.

Regardless of our station in life, how old we are, how inexperienced we may be, what we’ve accomplished, our past failures, our future hopes and dreams, our great successes.

With each passing moment, the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of life are unfolding all around us...

Make yours count.

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