Rich Cohen wrote that there are four rungs of being remembered after death: “newly dead; dead but remembered; dead and all those who knew you dead; dead and all those who knew those who knew you dead.” And to a line like that Marcus Aurelius would add that such distinctions are utterly lost on the person who actually did the dying…because they’re gone.
It might seem sad or unfair, or admirable and inspiring that the memory of some famous people echoes through eternity. It must be so cool that people are still reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. It is cool—it’s cool to them. It’s not cool to him. He’s dead.
Sorry to be a downer this morning but it’s just an important reminder of something that it’s very easy to forget: All that matters is what happens when you’re alive. Your legacy will offer you no pleasure after you’ve passed. Your fame will do you no favors once you die.