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In your own time: how to live for today the philosophical way

By Oliver Burkeman

10 Jun 2022 · 4 min read

Arguably the most useless observation ever made by an ancient Greek philosopher – putting aside, for now, Pythagoras’s theory that fava beans contained the souls of the dead – was Epicurus’s argument that we shouldn’t fear death, because we won’t be around when it happens. Nobody gets upset about the fact that they didn’t exist before their birth, he reasoned, so why feel bad about the fact that you won’t exist again soon?

But I’ve never met anyone who found this remotely consoling. It would be one thing never to have been born in the first place. Once you’ve been born, you’re invested, whether you like it or not. And getting older is thus inevitably a matter of getting nearer and nearer to the certainty that, any day now, your finite time will run out before you’ve done more than a handful of the limitless number of things you could in principle have done with it, or spent more than a tiny flicker of time with the people you care about the most.

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