Tuesday

December 15

IF I can achieve nothing myself, I will not envy another the honour of doing some gallant action. But suppose this to be a strain too high for us ; are not we capable at least of arguing thus? — Where shall I fly from death? Show me the place; show me the people to whom I may have recourse, whom death doth not overtake. Show me the charm to avoid it. If there be none, what would you have me do? I cannot escape death; but cannot I escape the dread of it? Must I die trembling and lamenting? For the origin of the disease is wishing for something that is not obtained. In consequence of this, if I can bring over externals to my own inclination, I do it; if not, I want to tear out the eyes of whoever hinders me. For it is the nature of man not to bear the being deprived of good; not to bear the falling into evil. And so, at last, when I can neither bring over things to my own inclination, nor tear out the eyes of him who hinders me, I sit down and groan, and revile him whom I can; Zeus, and the rest of the gods.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §27. ¶1.

2 comments:

  1. When I read this post I am reminded of a wonderful poem called "When Death Comes" by Mary Oliver. To understand the reality of death as part of life... one cannot have the beautiful blossom of life without the eventual fruit of death. Death is the final fulfilment of the promise of your life. A certainty and not something to be feared but to be taken as a destination. Not as something to be wallowed in but as something to be sure to be worthy of. I see each day as a chance to embrace life and death fully. To, as the above mentioned poem states, "step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?"

    "When it is over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms."

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  2. This is where I feel that Stoicism gets short shrift. Some would see the resignation to death as fatalism. Nor is it about optimism. It is all about realism. To drag something out of my LDS background, one verse that always struck me was "For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). Dismissing the religious elements, I focus on the last phrase, 'after all we can do.' I feel that this applies to Stoicism perfectly, for as Stoics we release the result of our efforts, after all we can do! But until we have explored 'all we can do,' we simply cannot give up or give in. When we have made the utmost effort, we can rest in that, fearless and satisfied that we have fulfilled the promise of our nature. Whether or not we achieve the goal, be it reaching the stars, curing cancer or eliminating death, is secondary to the complete effort we can expend in those directions. I am certain that few of us ever have the luxury of giving up, because so very few of us have tried, and fought, and given all that we can towards worthy goals.

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