The Wisdom Only Death Can Give You

What is it that we fear so much about death? Could it be the pain that goes with it? Certainly, at least in part. But, you could also die while being in bed, not even realizing that you slipped away without you even noticing from the realm of the living, without any pain. So what is it then? 

Mostly, it’s the fear of not having lived well or enough. Whenever a young person dies, the usual mourn is ‘he had so many things to live still’. As in, to live fully, you have to fulfill an entire list of requirements that embed you with a ‘complete life’. 

So, what are those things, so valuable, that you need to fulfill before you die? Getting married? Having kids? Financial success? 

But, are they really? If you were to die tomorrow? Would you do so gladly? Or are you going to be sad because you are not going to experiment more and more of financial success, of grandkids or bodily pleasures like sex and food? would you be sad because you want more of it?

The reason most people are scared to die is that they will die without ever having enough of everything. (spoiler alert, there’ll never be enough)

But are those things enlisted so valuable that we should forever (while we are alive) live in fear of losing? Ever careful not to slip and hit our heads so that we can enjoy every last bit of everything that could be enjoyed? 

But, at the same time, doesn’t a life of fear sucks? Like, really, really bad?

Absolutely, so, the answer might not lie in living enough to experience everything, but in living what there is to be lived well (how you live, not what you live), without the fear of losing it, because the very fear of losing it will prevent you from actually enjoying it. 

This is why, for the Stoics, the highest form of value relied on virtue. For only a virtuous life would give you the opportunity to truly enjoy and live your life, without it being marred by fear and ignorance. 

A person that realizes that courage and freedom (personal) are more important than financial security, for example, will be able to enjoy his life regardless of his circumstances, and more so, will be prepared to die for what he deems really beautiful and important. Like courage, freedom, wisdom, and the other virtues that lift men to the level of the gods. 

Many Stoics, famously, like Cato or Seneca, committed suicide. But they didn’t do so because they were bored with life or depressive, as a nihilist would do, but rather because they found the things of true value in life (as mentioned above) so damn important, that they were willing to die to prove them right. 

We have seen that the Stoics were inclined to take principled stands against powerful people and thereby get themselves into trouble. 

Why take such stands? 

For one thing, Stoics thought they had a social duty to take them. Furthermore, because they feared neither death nor exile, the prospect of being punished for taking such stands — a prospect that would have deterred ordinary people — didn’t deter them. 

To many modern individuals, such behavior is inexplicable. 

They feel this way in part because to them, nothing is worth dying for. Indeed, they focus their energy not on doing their duty regardless of the consequences and not on taking principled stands that could get them into trouble, but on doing whatever it takes to go on enjoying the pleasures life has to offer. The Stoics, I am convinced, would respond to such thinking by asking whether a life in which nothing is worth dying for can possibly be worth living.— William B. Irvine

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you don’t already possess the most beautiful and valuable gifts of life, right here, right now, within you. It is only by realizing that, that you can live life well, and be prepared to die, happily and with tranquility.

Thanks for reading, 

Ricardo Guaderrama

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