You clean and then it gets dirty. You do the dishes and then five minutes later, the sink is full again. You made it through your inbox in the morning and by the time late afternoon strikes, you’re already digging yourself out again. Literally before you’ve even finished putting the dog’s toys away, they’re splayed out across the floor. Just as you put the finishing touches on that big project, another is dropped on your plate. You finally organize your kids’ clothes and now they’ve grown out of them.
This can drive you nuts. Or you can learn to love it.
In Tibet, Buddhist monks make beautiful mandalas out of sand. They spend hours, even days, crafting these complex, geometric designs…only to wipe them clean and start over as soon as they’re finished.
Isn’t that a way we might see all the work we do? Might that be a way to go through life? It’s not about cleaning the house or finishing this or that task. It’s about the mandala—an unending, ephemeral process that we begin again and again and again. In fact, that’s what Marcus said again and again and again. The universe is nothing but change. Everything is constantly in flux. Nothing lasts. “Some things are rushing into existence, others out of it,” he reminded himself. “Some of what now exists is already gone. Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.”
The dishes, the desk, the dog’s toys, your inbox, the weight you lose and gain and lose—these things are never done or clean or organized or set. No, entropy is always at work. You are at work. Your growth is at work.
So we should not feel exasperated or frustrated by it. We should love the flow of it. It’s not work we’re doing, it’s art. Finish? To be finished would mean the end of this—the end of our lives. No, we like that it’s a little bit like Groundhog’s Day. Because it means a chance to wake up and live another day.
To do it beautifully. To do it well.
P.S. This was originally sent on May 3, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.