SLRP: IV. On the terrors of death


“But do you not see what trifling reasons impel men to scorn life? One hangs himself before the door of his mistress; another hurls himself from the house-top that he may no longer be compelled to bear the taunts of a bad-tempered master; a third, to be saved from arrest after running away, drives a sword into his vitals. Do you not suppose that virtue will be as efficacious as excessive fear?

One of the hardest concepts in our School’s thought, is that virtue and vice are binary, allowing for no progress or median states.  There are the wise and the insane.

Yet, seeing it placed so, as in your later last, that virtue must be as efficacious as vice… that’s an interesting thought.  I am all to aware of the whirlwind which the passions produce in the soul.  But to think of that whirlwind’s metaphysical opposite reinforces to me that I am not there yet… assuming that’s the measure to take.  (;

“Most men ebb and flow in wretchedness between the fear of death and the hardships of life; they are unwilling to live, and yet they do not know how to die.”

Through my studies, my concern with the indifferents of life has significantly lessened.  I measure this by the amount of stress which accompany financial matters, the amount of discomfort which comes with opening my wallet; and my response to the actions of others.  In this regard alone, the me of today is vastly different from five years ago.

I am reasonably sure that I could maintain equanimity for myself in many ‘hardships of life,’  but I suspect that I would not be up to the challenge of those I care about being so subjected… especially if preventing that is one of my social roles.

”Do you know what limits that law of nature ordains for us? Merely to avert hunger, thirst, and cold. In order to banish hunger and 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 and ready to hand. 11 It is the superfluous things for which men sweat, – the superfluous things that wear our togas threadbare, that force us to grow old in camp, that dash us upon foreign shores. That which is enough is ready to our hands. He who has made a fair compact with poverty is rich.”

Fair enough, but this seems to be advocating the Cynic’s life, which I don’t discard as wrong, mind you.  But how do we mesh this with our social roles as providers for families?  As citizens?

With the thoughts of our duties to nature and virtue, and our duties to our family and friends, I bid you farewell.

Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

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