Fog chills heaven to gray,
Nights come earlier.
Everyone knows decline,
But few discern its border.
Although it is summer and there are many warm months to come, it is possible to sense that the heavens are already turning downward. Nearly imperceptibly, the fruit is ripening on the trees and the nights are lengthening once again. It is too early to talk of autumn, and yet the next season is on its way.
Why do we never prepare for decline? We all realize that it is a valid phenomenon — we know about the fall of empires, the aging of heroes, the lessening of our own skill — but we are not always aware of its approach. We often realize too late that we are in a period of decline, and so we are unprepared. It takes a wise person to perceive the moment when things begin to change.
Summer does not fade away in a day. Our actions must accord with the times. Just as the decline of summer is gradual, so too should our actions be commensurate with the pace of change. Even though decline may be approaching, we must gauge how quickly or how slowly events are moving. If we are too hasty — like someone who notices the first cool breeze and immediately dons winter clothing — we will be overreacting. It is important to think of decline as something natural and inevitable. Therefore there should be no emotional values attached to it. It simply happens, and that is all.