12. How should we age ?

Cherish & love aging, for its pleasurable when one knows how to use it.
Take comfort that one has lived, that one day is equal to every day.

On Old Age

Let us cherish & love old age; for it is full of pleasure if one knows how to use it.

Fruits are most welcome when almost over; youth is most charming at its close; the last drink delights the toper, – Each pleasure reserves to the end the greatest delights which it contains.

Life is most delightful when it is on the downward slope, but has not yet reached the abrupt decline, & I myself believe that the period which stands, so to speak, on the edge of the roof, possesses pleasures of its own.

Or else the very fact of our not wanting pleasures has taken the place of the pleasures themselves. How comforting it is to have tired out one’s appetites, & to have done with them!

“It is a nuisance to be looking death in the face!”; Death, however, should be looked in the face by young & old alike.

We are not summoned according to our rating on the censor’s list; Moreover, no one is so old that it would be improper for them to hope for another day of existence, & one day, mind you, is a stage on life’s journey.

Our span of life is divided into parts; it consists of large circles enclosing smaller.

One circle embraces & bounds the rest; it reaches from birth to the last day of existence; The next circle limits the period of our young adulthood; The third confines all of childhood in its circumference.

There is, in a class by itself, the year; it contains within itself all the divisions of time by the multiplication of which we get the total of life; The month is bounded by a narrower ring; The smallest circle of all is the day; but even a day has its beginning & its ending, its sunrise & its sunset.

Hence Heraclitus, remarked: “One day is equal to every day.”

Different persons have interpreted the saying in different ways; Some hold that days are equal in number of hours, & this is true; for if by “day” we mean twenty-four hours’ time, all days must be equal, inasmuch as the night acquires what the day loses.

Others maintain that one day is equal to all days through resemblance, because the very longest space of time possesses no element which cannot be found in a single day, – namely, light & darkness, – & even to eternity day makes these alternations more numerous, not different when it is shorter & different again when it is longer.

Hence, every day ought to be regulated as if it closed the series, as if it rounded out & completed our existence.

Let us go to our sleep with joy & gladness; let us say: I have lived; the course which Fortune set for me & it is finished.

If God is pleased to add another day, we should welcome it with glad hearts.

That One is happiest, & is secure in their own possession of themselves, who can await the morrow without apprehension; When a person has said: “I have lived!”, every morning one arises & one receives a bonus.

Now I ought to close my letter. “What?” you say; “shall it come to me without any little offering?”, Be not afraid; it brings something; For what is more noble than the following saying of which I make this letter the bearer:

“It is wrong to live under constraint; but no person is constrained to live under constraint.”

Of course not; On all sides lie many short & simple paths to freedom; & let us thank God that no one can be kept in life; We may spurn the very constraints that hold us.

“Epicurus,” you reply, “uttered these words; what are you doing with another’s property?”; Any truth, I maintain, is my own property; & I shall continue to heap quotations from Epicurus upon you, so that all persons who swear by the words of another, & put a value upon the speaker & not upon the thing spoken, may

understand that the best ideas are common property.


Seneca, StoicTaoist.

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