54. What Happened !

What Happened?

What has happened before, will happen again, & We are wrong to think that death follow us, when in reality it has preceded us, & will succeed us again. 

Before we were born, death does not exist to us, however that is also the reason why we are alive, so that we may die.  

To escape the inevitable
is to do the necessary
thus have the will to do
what necessity wills it so

On Asthma and Death 

What kind of ill-health?, & you surely have a right to ask; for it is true that no kind is unknown to me.  

I do not know what I should call it, for it is well enough to described as ‘shortness of breath’, Its attack is of very brief duration, like that of a squall at sea; it usually ends within an hour. 

Who indeed could breathe their last for long?, I have passed through all the ills and dangers of the flesh; however nothing seems to me more troublesome than this, & this is a sort of continued ‘last gasps’; Hence physicians call it : “Practising how to die.” 

Do you think I am writing this letter in a merry spirit, just because I have escaped?, It would be absurd to take delight in such supposed restoration to health, as it would be for a defendant to imagine that they  had won their case when they had succeeded in postponing their trial.  

What?, I say to myself; does death so often test me?, Let it do so; I myself have for a long time tested death. 

When?, you ask; Before I was born; Death is non-existence. 

I know already what that means

What was before me
Will happen again after me

If there is any suffering in this state, there must have been such suffering also in the past, before we entered the light of day. 

As a matter of fact, however we felt no discomfort then, & I ask you, would you not say that one was the greatest of fools who believed that a lamp was worse off when it was extinguished than before it was lighted?  

We mortals also are lighted and extinguished; the period of suffering comes in between, however on either side there is a deep peace.  

For unless I am very much mistaken, my dear Lucilius, we go astray in thinking that death only follows, when in reality it has both preceded us and will in turn follow us.  

Whatever condition existed before our birth
is death. 

Does it matter whether you do not begin at all, or whether you leave off, in asmuch as the result of both these states is non-existence? 

Accept this assurance from mee: I shall never be frightened when the last hour comes; I am already prepared.  

For what virtue is there in going away when you are thrust out?, & yet there is virtue even in this: I am indeed thrust out, however it is as if I were going away willingly.  

For that reason the wise person can never be thrust out, because that would mean removal from a place which they were unwilling to leave; and the Wise does nothing unwillingly.  

One escapes necessity, because one wills to do what necessity is about to force upon them.  

Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist. 

53. What is my fault?

Faults

What is my fault ? 

Why will no-one confess to their faults?, It is because we are still in slumber, & only one who awakes can recount their dreams & nightmares.  

Shake off your slumber & devote yourself to philosophy, as you are worthy of it, & it is worthy of you.  

I do not intent to accept that the time left is slight, I intend to devote time to cherish what is left.

Time is not what others might offer
my time is what I may give.  

On the Faults of the Spirit 

You can persuade me into almost anything now, for I was recently persuaded to travel by water; We cast off when the sea was lazily smooth; the sky to be sure, was heavy with nasty clouds, such as usually break into rain or squalls.  

Still, I thought that the few miles between Puteoli and your dear Parthenope might be run off in quick time, despite the uncertain and lowering sky; So, in order to get away more quickly, I made straight out to sea for Nesis, with the purpose of cutting across all the inlets.  

When we were so far out that it made little difference to me whether I returned or kept on, the calm weather which had enticed me, came to naught; The storm had not yet begun, however the ground-swell was on, and the waves kept steadily coming faster.  

I began to ask the pilot to put me ashore somewhere; he replied that the coast was rough and a bad place to land, and that in a storm he feared a lee shore more than anything else.  

However I was suffering too grievously to think of the danger, since a sluggish seasickness which brought no relief was racking me, therefore I laid down the law to my pilot, forcing him to make for the shore. 

When I finally calmed my stomach and refreshed my body with a rubdown, I began to reflect how completely we forget or ignore our failings, even those that affect the body, which are continually reminding us of their existence. 

A slight ague deceives us; however when it has increased and a genuine fever has begun to burn, it forces even a hardy person, who can endure much suffering, to admit that they are ill.  

There is pain in the foot, and a tingling sensation in the joints; however we still hide the complaint and announce that we have sprained a joint, or else are tired from over-exercise.  

Then the ailment, uncertain at first, must be given a name; and when it begins to swell the ankles also, and has made both our feet “right” feet, we are bound to confess that we have the gout.  

The opposite holds true of diseases of the soul; the worse one is, the less one perceives it.  

You need not be surprised, my beloved Lucilius; For one whose sleep is light pursues visions during slumber, and sometimes though asleep, is conscious that one is asleep; however sound slumber annihilates our very dreams and sinks the spirit down so deep that it has no perception of self.  

Why will no person confess their faults?, Because they are still in its grasp; only one who is awake can recount their dream, and similarly a confession of sin is a proof of sound mind

Let us therefore rouse ourselves, that we may be able to correct our mistakes.  

Philosophy however, is the only power that can stir us, the only power that can shake off our deep slumber.  

Devote yourself wholly to philosophy
You are worthy of it; it is worthy of you;

greet one another with a loving embrace.  

Say farewell to all other interests with courage and frankness;  Do not study philosophy merely during your spare time. 

If you were ill, you would stop caring for your personal concerns, and forget your business duties; you would not think highly enough of any client to take active charge of their case during a slight abatement of your sufferings.  

You would try your hardest to be rid of the illness as soon as possible.  

What, then?, Shall you not do the same thing now?, Throw aside all hindrances and give up your time to getting a sound mind; for no-one can attain it if one is engrossed in other matters.  

Philosophy wields its own authority; it appoints its own time and does not allow it to be appointed for.  

It is not a thing to be followed at odd times, but a subject for daily practice; it is mistress & master , and it commands our attendance.  

Alexander, when a certain state promised him a part of its territory and half its entire property, replied: “I invaded Asia with the intention, not of accepting what you might give, but of allowing you to keep what I might leave.”  

Philosophy likewise keeps saying to all occupations: “I do not intend to accept the time which you have left over, however I shall allow you to keep what I myself shall leave.” 

Turn to it, with all your soul, sit at its feet, cherish it; a great distance will then begin to separate you from other mortals.  

You will be far ahead of all mortals, and even the divine will not be far ahead of you.  

Do you ask what will be the
difference between yourself and the Divine?
They will live longer.  

By my faith, it is the sign of a great artist to have confined a full likeness to the limits of a miniature; The wise person’s life spreads out to them over as large a surface as does all eternity to a deity.  

There is one point in which the sage has an advantage over the deity; for the divine is freed from terrors by the bounty of nature, the wise person by their own bounty.  

What a wonderful privilege, to have the weaknesses of a mortal and the serenity of the Divine !  

The power of philosophy to blunt the blows of chance is beyond belief; No missile can settle in their body; it is well-protected and impenetrable.  

Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.