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STOIC POETRY | Live afraid, die afraid

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

September 15, 2019

Dear Eric,

Were you very afraid before you died? You knew it was coming. I'd tried to talk you out of it weeks before. You didn't seem afraid then. But, of course you were afraid. You were about to do something that would cease your living. But that's not the fear I'm referring to. Were you afraid in that other way?

Live afraid Die afraid

This other "afraid" is the fear we sometimes feel when venturing into new places. It's the afraid of the unknown. And the afraid of the unseen, or unfamiliar, or even unwelcome. That's the afraid I'm after. I want to live afraid in this way always...or nearly always. And what a gracious thing it would be to die this way as well. Especially if our mind retains some ability at the edge of death to reflect upon the unknown where we will venture next - or perhaps venture not? Do torments await just a failed breathe away? Or maybe paradise? Or perhaps oblivion - most likely that - the moment our brain chemistry stops bubbling? What delicious fear of anticipation. Which will it be?

How dull it must be to live and die not so afraid. To pass each day within a walled-garden of the mind; comforted within a seemingly safe enclosure of thick rampart assembled of precedent, authority, society, certitude, and faith. Sipping weak tea among cultivated herbs and flowering plants yielding sweets scents and beautiful blooms. A place of few wild weeds - though much weeding. There are sounds here heard from outside the walls. Nasty sounds. Heathen sounds of the World.

Meanwhile, barbarians roam narrow, thorny trails leading over craggy terrain, past swamps and through woods dark and mysterious. It's never night in the woods and never day. Always dusk. Always threatening darkness without a torch. And that it getting closer? Those that roam here are suffering. They hunger, and they thirst, and bleed and endure loneliness and doubt. But they came here by choice. They want to be lost. They want to explore. They want to live afraid. They walk past the walls and wonder at who built them, and why? Finding no doors, wanting not to enter, moving on...

This is how I hope to live...and to die.


And always outside the walls.


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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