Leaves … Like the Lives of Mortal Men

Spring and Autumn - The renewal of the elements of nature

Spring and Autumn not only call to mind the renewal of the elements of nature but also remind us of the brevity of life and the temporal advancement of life.

The past is immutable and the future is yet tenuous and undefined. Memories of the past are full of triumphs and regrets while anticipations of the future are full of hopes and fears.

If we lose ourselves in memories of the past or fantasies about the future, we lose valuable experiences that take place in the present moment. As I mentioned in my previous article “Present Perfect,” we don’t remain completely in the present.

The change of seasons reminds us of the Buddhist concepts of transience and impermanence—that everything is impermanent—everything, including our own selves. Somehow, we refrain from acknowledging our own impermanence and resist confronting our own mortality.

'The Iliad' by Homer, tr. Robert Fagles (ISBN 0140275363) In Homer’s epic The Iliad, men die at an astonishing pace in various battles. During the Trojan War, when the Achaean commander Diomedes confronts the Trojan lieutenant Glaucus, the latter reflects,

Like the generation of leaves, the lives of mortal men.
Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,
now the living timber bursts with the new buds
and spring comes round again. And so with men:
as one generation comes to life, another dies away.

Source: “The Iliad” (6:171) by Homer, tr. Robert Fagles

Idea for Impact: The passage of time induces us to confront our own mortality. Considering our own morality is a useful tool to guide our present actions. It reminds us to appreciate and live each moment purposefully and wisely.

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