Why do we fear death?
On Conquering the Conqueror
I have beheld Bassus, that noble man, shattered in health & wrestling with his years; old age has settled down upon him with great, yes with its entire weight.
For a long time he has kept it in hand, or, to speak more correctly, has kept it together; of a sudden it has collapsed; Just as in a ship that springs a leak, you can always stop the first or the second fissure, but when many holes begin to open & let in water, the gaping hull cannot be saved.
Similarly, in an old person’s body, there is a certain limit up to which you can sustain & prop its weakness, – when every joint begins to spread & while one is being repaired another falls apart, – then it is time for a person to look about them & consider how they may get out.
This is what our friend Bassus is doing; & he contemplates his own end with the courage & countenance which you would regard as undue indifference in a person who so contemplated another’s.
This is a great accomplishment, Lucilius, & one which needs long practice to learn,
For I must tell you what I myself think: I hold that one is braver at the very moment of death than when one is approaching death, For death, when it stands near us, gives even to inexperienced person the courage not to seek to avoid the inevitable.
Bassus may be included among these people; & he had no wish to deceive us;
One who does not wish to die cannot have wished to live;
In accord with the counsels of Epicurus: “I hope, first of all, that there is no pain at the moment when a person breathes their last; but if there is, one will find an element of comfort in its very shortness.
For no great pain lasts long; & at all events, a person will find relief at the very time when soul & body are being torn asunder, even though the process be accompanied by excruciating pain, in the thought that after this pain is over, One can feel no more pain.
Bassus kept saying: “It is due to our own fault that we feel this torture, because we shrink from dying only when we believe that our end is near at hand.”,
, It is ready for us in all places & at all times.
“Let us consider,” he went on to say, “when some agency of death seems imminent, how much nearer are other varieties of dying which are not feared by us.”, & if we are willing to examine critically the various causes of our fear,
For death itself is always the same distance from us; wherefore, if it is to be feared at all, it is to be feared always; For what season of our life is exempt from death?, Do you however always think on death, in order that you may never fear it?
Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.