57. Why we Fear? 

Why we Fear?

Why we Fear? 

Travelling through darkness, with torches, it enable us not to see amid the darkness, but to see Darkness, &, nature reminds courage how perishable a thing it is. 

How foolish are we, to fear something more than others, as you fall from a 1,000 feet or 10,000 feet, what difference does it make? 

So true it is that fear looks not, to the effect, but to the cause of the effect.    

On the Trials of Travel 

When it was time for me to return to Naples from Baiae, I easily persuaded myself that a storm was raging, that I might avoid another trip by sea; and yet the road was so deep in mud, all the way that I may be thought none the less to have made a voyage. 

No place could be longer than that prison; nothing could be dimmer than those torches, which enabled us, not to see amid the darkness, but to see the darkness. 

Yet, even supposing that there was light in the place, the dust, which is an oppressive and disagreeable thing even in the open air, would destroy the light; how much worse the dust is there, where it rolls back upon itself, and being shut in without ventilation, blows back in the faces of those who set it going! 

So we endured two inconveniences at the same time, and they were diametrically different: we struggled both with mud and with dust on the same road and on the same day. 

The gloom, however, furnished me with some food for thought; I felt a certain mental thrill, and a transformation unaccompanied by fear, due to the novelty and the unpleasantness of an unusual occurrence. 

Of course I am not speaking to you of myself at this point, because I am far from being a perfect person, or even a person of middling qualities; I refer to one over whom fortune has lost its control; Even such a person’s mind will be smitten with a thrill and it will change colour.  

For there are certain emotions, my dear Lucilius, which no courage can avoid; nature reminds courage how perishable a thing it is, And so it will contract it’s brow when the prospect is forbidding, will shudder at sudden apparitions, and will become dizzy when it stands at the edge of a high precipice and looks down; This is not fear; it is a natural feeling which reason cannot rout.  

That is why certain brave people, most willing to shed their own blood, cannot bear to see the blood of others; Some people collapse and faint at the sight of a freshly inflicted woound; others are affected similarly on handling an old wound which is festering, And others meet the sword more readily than they see it dealt. 

Accordingly, as I said, I experienced a certain transformation, though it could not be called confusion; Then at the first glimpse of restored daylight my good spirits returned without forethought or command, And I began to muse and think how foolish we are to fear certain objects to a greater or less degree, since all of them end in the same way.  

For what difference does it make whether a watchtower or a mountain crashes down upon us?  

No difference at all, you will find; Nevertheless, there will be some people who fear the latter mishap to a greater degree, though both accidents are equally deadly; so true it is that fear looks not to the effect, but to the cause of the effect.  

Do you suppose that I am now referring to the Stoics, who hold that the soul of a person crushed by a great weight cannot abide, and is scattered forthwith, because it has not had a free opportunity to depart?, That is not what I am doing; those who think thus are in my opinion, wrong.  

Just as fire cannot be crushed out, since it will escape round the edges of the body which overwhelms it; just as the air cannot be damaged by lashes and blows, or even cut into, but flows back about the object to which it gives place; similarly the soul, which consists of the subtlest particles, cannot be arrested or destroyed inside the body, but by virtue of its delicate substance, it will rather escape through the very object by which it is being crushed.  

Just as lightning, no matter how widely it strikes and flashes, makes its return through a narrow opening, so the soul, which is still subtler than fire, has a way of escape through any part of the body.  

We therefore come to this question, – whether the soul can be immortal, However be sure of this: if the soul survives the body after the body is crushed, the soul can in no wise be crushed out, precisely because it does not perish; for the rule of immortality never admits of exceptions, and nothing can harm that which is everlasting. 

Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.