Live Right So You Can Die Right— My Stoic Musings 018

“Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.”

“Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.48.2

“Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair” — these are the ironic words engraved on the pedestal of the now fallen and broken statue of Ozymandias — the King of Kings. The head half sunk in the desert, torso missing, and only the weathered legs remain standing. This is a picture painted by the famous poet P.B. Shelley in his iconic poem, “Ozymandias” and it really is the perfect metaphor for the way we live our lives: yearning for power, pride, and greatness, only for it all to be forgotten over time. It would do us good to remember that time is an unforgiving monster that spares no one, especially not the people who take too much pride in their power and greatness. Even the largest monuments erected by the tyrants slowly crumble over time, either by people pulling them down or just the wind eroding them. It makes sense then for us all to live our lives with humility. We must accept our mortality and the briefness of our time. We should be more in awe of the world around us and its beauty. We should live in harmony with the nature, the world, and the universe. And when the dagger of death finally drops on us, we can depart gracefully because we lived our lives the right way — with kindness, humility, and wonder.


This article is a part of my Stoic Musings challenge, inspired by the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman, where I take a quote from the book and reflect on it, every day.