“Stoically” Enduring Decline


“Nor am I so mad as to crave illness; but if I must suffer illness, I shall desire that I may do nothing which shows lack of restraint, and nothing that is unmanly. The conclusion is, not that hardships are desirable, but that virtue is desirable, which enables us patiently to endure hardships.” –Seneca’s letters to Lucillius LXVII (47)

This line goes straight to what is thought of as “stoic” in the neo-modern interpretation, no?  When the casual listener here’s that someone is stoic, they think of someone who can “grin and bear it.”  But that is not stoic at all, in the classic sense.

As we get older, we tire more easily.

As we get older, we tire more easily. (Photo: chidseyc @rgbstock)

I am aging.  My body performs less and less efficiently regardless of my efforts to retain my youthful health.  Grinning and bearing it is not the goal of the true stoic.  Rather, being aware that the decline of my physical being is inevitable is what I should meditate upon.  Then, when it happens I am not surprised.  I remain happy and virtuous because I have practiced this inevitability in my mind before.  As a result, I can smile and say, “I knew it was coming all along.”

…and the important part is that I can smile.

Smiling at the view!

Smiling at the view!

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