SLRP: XXIV. On Despising Death (Part 1: 1 – 13)




“[I]f you would put off all worry, assume that what you fear may happen will certainly happen in any event; whatever the trouble may be, measure it in your own mind, and estimate the amount of your fear. You will thus understand that what you fear is either insignificant or short-lived.”

It is interesting to find here the example of the premeditatio malorum, which I think is usually attributed to Marcus.

“Remember, however, before all else, to strip things of all that disturbs and confuses, and to see what each is at bottom; you will then comprehend that they contain nothing fearful except the actual fear… We should strip the mask, not only from men, but from things, and restore to each object its own aspect.”

And here we have the muse of Objective Description, that practice which is often attributed to Marcus.  You’ve laid out, if not the letter of the practice, the spirit of it.

It’s Socrates via Plato who says, “…those who practice philosophy in the right way are in training for dying, and they fear death least of all men.”

This is still an issue I’m wrangling with, and so I won’t do either of us the disservice of speaking overly long on it.  When I first started studying Stoicism in earnest, not as a mere interest or hobby, I don’t think I really grokked the importance of the measure against death, the memento mori.  I read about it, thought about it superficially, but even then it was hard to truly hold in my mind.

The young really do feel immortal.  Whether the realities of the situation are finally starting to settle in, or I’m just becoming more comfortable with the ideas of entropy, I don’t know.  But the memento mori is becoming something new for me which it wasn’t even two years ago.

I would like to read more of Cato, even though your letter suggests maybe Lucillius was fed up with that story.  I’ll try to file that away for future reading.  Thank you for the letter, and I look forward to the second part tomorrow.


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

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