Forget the future

Peter recently bought a copy of Gregory Hays’s 2002 translation of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, published by the Modern Library, and flipping through it, I found a passage that made me laugh out loud:

Give yourself a gift: the present moment.

People out for posthumous fame forget that the Generations To Come will be the same annoying people they know now. And just as mortal. What does it matter to you if they say x about you, or think y?

It would be almost rude to say this in public but it’s liberating. Maybe the translation is a little too zingy, though? I took off the shelf the other translation we have in the house, a version made in 1944 by A. S. L. Farquharson and currently published by Everyman’s Library. Here’s the same passage in Farquharson’s rendering:

See that you bestow this present time upon yourself. Those who rather run after fame in the future leave out of account that men hereafter will be just such others as these whom they find hard to bear, and those men, too, will be liable to death. What, after all, is it to you if men hereafter resound your name with such and such voices or have such and such a judgment about you?

Which explains why I never made it through Marcus Aurelius when I made the attempt as a teenager.