The title of tomorrow’s entry in The Daily Stoic as well as today’s entry comes from the wonderful song by the singer/songwriter Jackie Greene, “Don’t Mind Me, I’m Only Dying Slow.” It’s a beautiful, lonely eight minute acoustic track, with a wheezing, bellowing harmonic chorus that evokes the sound of a man struggling to breathe. The entry that it inspired is a short one about how from the second we’re born, we’re in the process of dying and so we need to live while we can. To hold you over until tomorrow, there are two verses from the song worth thinking about.
“And I feel like a hound dog moaning along with the rain
Any day now, the jukebox could drive me insane
There’s an old man in the corner that nobody knows
He says: “laugh while you can cause someday you’ll be wearing my clothes”
Who is this old man? Were they laughing at him? Or just laughing and living it up generally? What does he mean by you’ll be ‘wearing my clothes?’ That one day we’ll be old like him? That one day we’ll be poor and broken like him? That we’ll be unknown like him? It’s probably a bit of all these things, and each is a Stoic insight. As Seneca put it, “If the breaking day sees someone proud, The ending day sees them brought low…Clotho mixes one [fate] with the other and stops Fortune from resting, spinning every fate around.”
But it’s the verse after next that evokes the message of tomorrow’s entry in the book:
“I know that you know how to fake and to take what
You break what you burn what you never did learn
Then you turn and you say that you’ve made a mistake
As your head starts to spin and your heart starts to ache
But all that you make will be all that you get
When the curtain goes down, but don’t you forget
That all your regret is a cheap silhouette and that’s all…
Ah but don’t mind me baby, I’m only dying slow”
We’re all dying slow. “Let each thing you would do, say or intend be like that of a dying person,” is Marcus’s command. Because you are a dying person and the curtain will come down. And when it does, your regrets will be nothing. All that you’ll have is what you made in this life.
P.S. Time, life, death—these are the three constants in this world. For a reminder, look at our Memento mori letterpress print or our memento mori coin which people like Rich Roll and Jon Gordon carry with them every day.