Saturday, August 1, 2020

Letters from a Stoic 12 - On Old Age

On Old Age

Old age does not have to be bitter or lonely.  If one so chooses, one can find contentment in youth, middle age and old age.

Now, Seneca was no sage!  He transparently shares how upset he is upon returning to his country home.  Not only does he complain about the cost of up-keep, but he complains about how stones are falling apart before he is!  He complains about how the trees he planted long ago, no longer have leaves.  And he complains about how old his play-mate is when he finds him standing in the doorway.

If we are to appreciate our life now, as well as in old age, we must practice memento mori.

Death, however, should be looked in the face by young and old alike.

We ought not go so far as Pacuvius, where he practiced his own funeral burial every day!  But, with that idea in mind, we should reflect that every day could be our last.

Thinking on our death, we appreciate every day we rise.

And if God is pleased to add another day, we should welcome it with glad hearts. That man is happiest, and is secure in his own possession of himself, who can await the morrow without apprehension. When a man has said: "I have lived!", every morning he arises he receives a bonus.

His closing quote, which he shares in the letter, reminds us that life is opinion.  If we think we are constrained, then we are constrained.  And as such, we have the freedom to think we are not constrained, and if we do, we won't be constrained.

 "It is wrong to live under constraint; but no man is constrained to live under constraint." Of course not. On all sides lie many short and simple paths to freedom; and let us thank God that no man can be kept in life. We may spurn the very constraints that hold us.