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STOIC POETRY | A gaze that is straight

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

September 29, 2019

Dear Eric,

Your gaze never once appeared to waver. Was this due to your youth? Was that it? Was it the strength and courage of small age and ignorance that powered your relentless, awe-inspiring gaze? Was it something deeper? I suspect not. None of us has any superpowers to be sure. We're all falling, failing lights in the night sky - brilliant at once and then fast-fading back into deep night. Yet, you put on a good show early on. Sure, it was an authentic display - and I certainly did the same thing, don't we all? But I know there is a deeper and still straighter gaze to be had. But this one comes not of youth but of age, and experience, and the effort of becoming - and not just being - strong.

”To go down with the ship" is a saying we use to describe the fortitude of someone who is resolved to carry through with worthy principle even unto death. This trait is a virtue, and one imagined most in those who have lived long enough to acquire something more to live for than life itself. This is something it takes time to genuinely gain, though it is possible to pretend in earnest. Nevertheless, it takes time to gain that deepest of forward-looking sight, that at once sees what is ahead while also taking in the periphery; that sees both the worthy object before us as well as the horrors at either side, and yet hardly flinches in either outward or inward aspect or resolve.

A straight gaze A broad perception An object in focus

Mature sight then is gained when we both remember clearly the past and maintain the fortitude to stay the path of virtue. We must also enlist reason to help us discern the way and to help us pick our forward course before setting out slowly across the landscape of life options. This quality of character and resolve cannot be easily had in youth, though its appearance can be taught to, and emulated by, the young, and may become genuine with practice. Yet trained fortitude does not become something more until we have the wisdom of experience - borne of honest reflection and the power of reason - to discern clearly where our energies and endeavors should best be applied. This is when our sight become most clear...and when the depths behind our eyes grow still and deep, becoming pools of quiet resolve, seeming perhaps bottomless to those who have never held their breath to swim down during youth, to plumb the darkness below to see - or feel - their way to the seeming bottom. To lift handfuls of cold, grainy sand from below. And to know that there is no such thing as bottomless, or forever, or eternity - just the now that demands our attention, and which draws our gaze towards its quite worthwhile and always immediate present. The down which we can never clearly see, but yet which experience and resolve cause our eyes to make the clearest attempt to perceive.


My name is Kurt Bell.

You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.

Be safe... But not too safe.

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