Medium: Death, Love, Stoicism

Forget all else, Lucilius, and concentrate your thoughts on this one thing: not to fear the name of death. Through long reflection make death one of your close acquaintances, so that, if the situation arises, you are able even to go out and meet it. — Seneca, On Earthquakes

One day you will die. In many ways, though, death is already present with us throughout life. First, and most obviously, there is the fact that we are, most of us, bereaved several times. We also witness the bereavements suffered by others, and hear about deaths happening all over the world. As children, we learned that animals and plants die — as adults we have already come to know that everything born must die.

Then there is death in another sense: we are, in fact, dying every day. This is not the body to which your mother gave birth, as the Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius put it. The child dies to become the adolescent. The adolescent dies to become the man. The boy is father to the man but also predeceases him. We die every night when we go to sleep and awaken a different person, although we often barely notice what has been lost in the process.

Third, death is present in our awareness that every thought and act could, for all we know, be cut short. Whatever we begin may, by its nature, insofar as it takes time to complete, be interrupted. We’re always, inescapably, conscious at some level of the utter fragility of our existence. No matter how much we try to ignore it, we know, each moment of our lives, that our life could suddenly stop.

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