On Old Age & Death
You may rate me in the worn-out class, – of those who are nearing the end, Nevertheless, I offer thanks to myself, with you as witness; for I feel that age has done no damage to my mind, though I feel its effects on my constitution.
The showing which we have made up to the present time, in word or deed, counts for nothing; All this is but a trifling & deceitful pledge of our spirit, & is wrapped in much charlatanism; I shall leave it to Death to determine what progress I have made.
Put aside the opinion of the world; it is always wavering & always takes both sides;
This is what I mean: your debates & learned talks, your maxims gathered from the teachings of the wise, your cultured conversation, – all these afford no proof of the real strength of your soul.
Even the most timid person can deliver a bold speech; What you have done in the past will be manifest only at the time when you draw your last breath; I accept the terms; I do not shrink from the decision.
This is what I say to myself, but I would have you think that I have said it to you also; You are younger; but what does that matter?
Epicurus will oblige me with these words: “Think on death,” or rather, if you prefer the phrase, on “migration to heaven.”, The meaning is clear, – that it is a wonderful thing to learn thoroughly how to die.
You may deem it superfluous to learn a text that can be used only once; but that is just the reason why we ought to think on a thing; When we can never prove whether we really know anything, we must always be learning it.
“Think on death.”, In saying this, Epicurus bids us think on freedom; One who has learnt to die has unlearned slavery; One is above any external power, or at any rate, One is beyond it.
The chain may not be cast off, but it may be rubbed away, so that when necessity shall demand, nothing may retard or hinder us from being ready to do at once that which at some time we are bound to do.
What terrors have prisons & bonds & bars for yyou?
Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.