Why do we fear death ?
Unwilling to live, yet know not to die.
On the TERRORS of DEATH
Keep on as you have begun, & make all possible haste, so that you may have longer enjoyment of an improved mind,
One that is at peace with itself.
Doubtless you will derive enjoyment during the time when you are improving your mind & setting it at peace with itself;
but quite different is the pleasure which comes from contemplation when one’s mind is so cleansed from every stain that it shines.
Nevertheless, you may look for a still greater joy when you have laid aside the mind of childhood & when wisdom has enrolled you among adults.
For it is not childhood that still stays with us, but something worse, – childishness.
And this condition is all the more serious because we possess the authority of old age, together with the follies of childhood, yea, even the follies of infancy.
Babies fear trifles, children fear shadows, we fear both.
All you need to do is to advance; you will thus understand that some things are less to be dreaded,
Precisely because they inspire us with great fear.
No evil is great which is the last evil of all.
it would be a thing to dread, if it could remain with you.
But death must either not come at all, or else must come and pass away.
“It is difficult, however,” you say, “to bring the mind to a point where it can scorn life.”
But do you not see what trifling reasons impel people to scorn life?
One hangs oneself before the door of their lovers; another hurls themself from the house-top that they may no longer be compelled to bear the taunts of the bad-tempered; a third, to be saved from arrest after running away, drives a sword into their vitals.
Do you not suppose that virtue will be as efficacious as excessive fear?
No one can have a peaceful life who thinks too much about lengthening it, or believes that living through many consulships is a great blessing.
Rehearse this thought every day, that you may be able to depart from life contentedly;
for many people clutch & cling to life, even as those who are carried down a rushing stream clutch & cling to briars & sharp rocks.
Most people ebb & flow in wretchedness between the fear of death & the hardships of life;
For this reason, make life as a whole agreeable to yourself by banishing all worry about it.
No good thing renders its possessor happy, unless their mind is reconciled to the possibility of loss;
Nothing, however, is lost with less discomfort than that which, when lost, cannot be missed.
Therefore, encourage and toughen your spirit against the mishaps that afflict even the most powerful.
No one has ever been so far advanced by Fortune that it did not threaten them as greatly as it had previously indulged them.
Do not trust it’s seeming calm; in a moment the sea is moved to its depths.
Reflect that an enemy may cut your throat; &, though they are not your master, every slave wields the power of life & death over you.
Therefore I declare to you: One is lord of their life that scorns their own.
Think of those who have perished through plots in their own homes, slain either openly or by guile; you will then understand that just as many have been killed by angry slaves as by angry kings.
What matter, therefore, how powerful one be whom you fear, when everyone possesses the power which inspires your fear?
“But,” you will say, “if you should chance to fall into the hands of the enemy, the conqueror will command that you be led away,”
– Yes, whither, you are already being led.
Why do you voluntarily deceive yourself & require to be told now for the first time what fate it is that you have long been labouring under?
Take my word for it: since the day you were born you are being led thither.
We must ponder this thought, & thoughts of the like nature, if we desire to be calm as we await that last hour, the fear of which makes all previous hours uneasy.
But I must end my letter. Let me share with you the saying which pleased me to-day. It, too, is culled from another man’s Garden:
“Poverty brought into conformity with the law of nature, is great wealth.”
Do you know what limits that law of nature ordains for us?
Merely to avert hunger, thirst, and cold.
In order to banish hunger & thirst, it is not necessary for you to pay court at the doors of the purse-proud, or to submit to the stern frown, or to the kindness that humiliates;
nor is it necessary for you to scour the seas, or go campaigning; nature’s needs are easily provided & ready to hand.
It is the superfluous things for which people sweat, – the superfluous things that wear our clothes threadbare, that force us to grow old in camp, that dash us upon foreign shores.
That which is enough is ready to our hands.
One who has made a fair compact with poverty is rich.
Stoic, Seneca, StoicTaoist。