top of page

STOIC POETRY | Prepared to arrive

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

October 10, 2019

Dear Eric,

You not only knew the exact place and time of your death but you indeed even walked there. You went alone. I wonder how quickly you walked to your knowing end...

Imagine every day the place of your contrived death. And then picture each step on an inexorable path to that end. Note how the steps slow and become measured. That's a way to walk and live - knowing always where we are indeed headed. With a little luck we'll never arrive at that imagined place. Though we will always one day at last arrive.

Does anyone walk quickly to the gallows? Perhaps some will move fast, wishing the deed over and the suffering of knowing done. But we're all walking to the gallows always, only we don't often know how near the end. And so, we forget the journey's inexorable end, and we walk with some ease of abandon. We walk as though we are free, and not chained to a ox-cart moving senselessly beyond our will. And we even run sometimes - like a child at the seashore dashing forward to chase the retreating waves. And then we're caught all at once in the swirling, cold waters of the returning maddened sea, wondering what happened as our last breath fails and the lights flicker out. That's one way to live and then die; to charge headlong through life towards interest, neglecting the fact of the coming end, until the fact is here. Would such a death be a willing death? Could we go willfully to such an end? Or would we die grasping back at the sands and our people upon the shore while drowning down into the deep?

Another way is to deny the end. To accept or even make up some tale of forever after life is done; an imagined sequel to enjoy and share with loved ones and the select few who know better than to doubt. And so, we bow and pray and console one-another to pass the days, and grieve the loss of those who go before, who we hope to see again someplace better than here. And thus, we live our lives telling stories of tomorrow, and tales of forever - dying at last in blissful terror and remembrance of what we hope might not be true.

And then there is the Stoic way. To walk a knowing journey of the gallows end. To neither delay nor hasten our movement along a winding path with a determined end. To rest well and soon at nightfall, and then rise early next day to start again. To neither smother truth with intemperance, nor ignore with groundless dreams of forever. To issue recognition of our own mortality through measured control of our speech; neither talking in excess nor through superfluous words or much volume or show of knowledge or foresight, but just enough to address well whatever issue is at hand or counsel has been sought. And to share company with others in such a way as to be present and engaged and pleasant without either excess attendance or attention being given or drawn at any time - but to be like a balanced scale resting at ease in equanimity in a crowded marketplace; engaged at times towards useful ends while otherwise simply being. And so the days will pass; living at once and always in a day. Never expecting tomorrow, while yet preparing for another day. And then the gallows are here... And our footsteps hardly falter... There's a slight push upon our arm as we breathe again, and then step upon the scaffold.


My name is Kurt Bell.

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

Be safe... But not too safe.

40 views0 comments


bottom of page