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STOIC POETRY | Sailing backwards

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

October 2, 2019

Dear Eric,

What is the cost of yesterday? The cost is now. What is the value of yesterday? The value is maturity - but only when we possess the fortitude to maintain or adjust our course in accord with the lessons we've learned - only if we remember to just glance back sometimes, and not to stare too long at yesterday.

There's a quicksand of complacency In every backwards glance There's a giving up of now In remembering yesterday It's not a bad thing to look back... Though looking behind Is never free

Imagine a sailor crossing the sea while looking at where they'd been... A man or woman at the rudder of a small boat, adjusting course, while gazing over their shoulder at the past. Look too long behind and they'll not see the rocks ahead until they're ruined and going down. No matter how wonderful the places we'd been, we must always, and soon, adjust our attention forward. We should also plan and chart a course into the sea. We should steer and tack and make our way forward. Even in open water the wise sailor attends their forward progress and sets a watch at every hour and season. Where we are now, and where we are headed next, is what matter most. Our past adventures are no longer any real living, and should only serve as reference and remembrance for the benefit of now and what is to come. I'd remember yesterday always if I had no wish to live well today. I'd linger long in the past only if I was too tired or hurt or done with the present.

It's alright to give up when we've had enough... When the journey's been long and we're ready to go lost with the wind while gazing behind at the sea. To wait for the open waters to swallow us soon while looking happily back at where we've been and lived. Or even to linger with our past pain until the great ocean takes it all away.

But let's not willingly lose ourselves too soon to the sea through gross mis-attention of the past while we're still fit to sail on. Let's keep our eyes forward with just periodic glances to memory for as long as we desire to go on - and then a little further still for safe measure. Let's save the backwards gazing for old age and our readiness for the end. Let's look back quick now for reference and then turn forward to scan the horizon ahead and all around. There are storm clouds out there and wind. There's sunrise and sunset and fine days and breezes to be had. Look again behind, quick, and then forward and all around. Get up and grab the rope and the tiller. There's time yet to attend the sea.

It's time to sail.


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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