Delphic Maxims: Think As A Mortal (Φρονει θνητα)

I like this Maxim. In the world of religion we spend a lot of time trying to think like Gods and other generally incorporeal beings. How should one address an angel? If I were a sea nymph what kind of offering would I want? How does one evolve over centuries, through millennia and via various cultures? If one is Immortal, what does one want or need?

Sometimes I hear people talking about Aeons and Ages and the massive millennia long spiritual cogs of the Universe turning, and I sometimes wonder if they forget they have but a brief span on earth. We are seriously not here very long. Most of us won’t make it to 100, unless science proves me a liar. We have but a short span to live, love and do good work.

Sometimes I look at the lives of great artists and I’m fascinated by how they seemed to be in such a hurry. Michaelangelo was only 37 when he completed the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, and he’d produced a significant body of work before that. My ancestors also seemed to be in a bit of a rush. Though I’ve discovered no child brides, the women in my family married young and had several children. Many of the men married young as well. In consequence, most of them watched multiple generations of their descendants come into being and grow into adulthood.

This morning as I sit here sipping my coffee and pondering what it means to think as a mortal, I am struck at how differently we think today. We have built a culture around delaying our lives. We spend years in school delaying the beginning of building our prosperity and life’s work. We spend years dating instead of settling down quickly. We spend years studying and working before we have children. We work long hours. We spend hundreds of hours commuting rather than traveling. We put off retirement. We don’t take vacations.We say we will spend more time with friends and family next year.

What the hell are we waiting for? Do we not know life is short? Do we really think the work we’re doing in middle management is going to echo through the ages and bring glory to our name? Do we really think our lives are so secure that we can put off what makes us divinely human? Do we think we shall not die?

For me, to think like a human means recognizing that you only get one shot at this. Life is short. Sometimes tragically short. Medical advances may mean we’ll lead longer lives, but maybe not. Maybe we’ll get hit by a bus tomorrow.

Forget reincarnation. Forget the afterlife. None of that is our concern and it is certainly beyond our control. Focus on the life we are living now. This is the only chance we get at it. What do you want to have accomplished? What do you want to leave behind? What happiness do you want to claim for your own? Right now?

We are not immortal. We do not control the fates. We do not span aeons. We have to seize our opportunity, whatever it may be. Seize love as it comes our way. Use our fertility while we have it. Enjoy our bodies while they are in good health. Savor the beauty of the earth while we still have our senses. This life is a gift, but not one we can keep. We cannot put it on a shelf like fine brandy and save it for a special occasion. We have to use it now. We have to think as a mortal, and mortal lives are very short.

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