To Start Again

by Tom Swift

Remember how long you have been deferring these things, and how many times you have been granted further grace by the gods, and yet you have failed to make use of it. But it is now high time that you realized what kind of universe this is of which you form a part, and from what governor of that universe you exist as an emanation; and that your time here is strictly limited, and, unless you make use of it to clear the fog from your mind, the moment will be gone, as you are gone, and never be yours again. -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.4

How is more important than What.

Yet What is not incidental to How.

You can be tranquil in a storm. You can thrive during disease. Epictetus was a slave and he managed as such that nearly two thousand years later his lessons helped James Stockdale endure another form of involuntary bondage, when the U.S. Admiral found himself a prisoner of war.

Life unfolds as it will. So little is in your control. What you do have a choice about is how you will respond.

Yet in the moments in which What is up to you, during times in which you are more or less free to decide your activity, whether during an hour or an afternoon, those choices seem not ancillary. The What influences the How.

Some activities rev you up, others bring you down. Some foster learning, inspire, open you to love in all its forms. Others lessen your mood, reduce your energy, and leave you less hopeful.

You still have the choice, of course, on how to regard the moment — on how to respond to the stimulus. But humans being human means you have only so much strength here. Especially when attention-grabbing algorithms are involved.

Single minutes when you open your Twitter feed can easily turn into 45 minutes — an hour — you will never get back.

Be a miser with your time. Do not give away your limited hours.

Do not choose Whats that add to the fog in your mind.