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STOIC POETRY | Shadow Dividend: The value of breaking our life

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

Sometimes, we decide to go forward. Sometimes, we leave behind what's safe and sound and settled and seemingly good. Some of us do this to better ourselves and our situation, others because there seems no other option; maybe some make the change in order to satisfy others, or the expectation of family, or society, or because it's what someone our age should do. Still others may do so for the sake of adventure and for the chance to move when sitting still no longer satisfies or has become dull or without challenge. But, for whatever reason we move, for whatever reason we decide to up-end our current life and change to another living, we do so with the hope of something better, a desire that what is new is somehow more of the thing we want, or seek, or long for. But where is the value in such movement and life change? Where is the deep value of making new life from old living?

Our new life may be hard. It probably will be very hard, indeed. And there will likely be moments - many perhaps - when we question our decision and ask ourselves "what have I done?" But these times will pass, they will come and they will go, and we will soon find ourselves in our new lives, once more settled and alright. With new places of our own; a new home, new friends, another position, new expectations and fresh frontiers. These are all good - or perhaps they will one day seem good, after we're fully settled, or after this new life adventure is done and we reflect from the vantage of a yet more distant life setting - but what is the heart and marrow of what we've done in terms of value? Where is the deep dividend of this change we've wrought upon ourselves?

The shadow dividend Is what we lose Through the act of moving on

There is something to be gained in what we lose from the process of life change. It's a dividend of sorts, realized from our investment of courage and action and movement, a shadow dividend found not from the gaining of something new, but from the loss of something which once was, or which we once had, or which we once did, or thought, or a way in which we once lived. This shadow dividend is the dark exfoliation of that excess of self which once girdled our lives like the spare-tire of a middle-aged man's gut, or the cluttered garage of the hoarder who discards nothing, or the gossip who collects the secrets of others like sordid jewels to put to no good end. We gain when we lose these things we do not truly need. We become something more and better for their loss. We are made new for the breaking away and falling off of what we find we do not, or should not, need. We are new then for the becoming of someone who leaves behind the self they should never be. The shadow dividend is found in the lessening of ourselves to just our most vital, necessary and sustaining self. It is the reduction of a man or woman to someone who is better for being less, and smaller, and more slight, and less here than simply alive, and good, and sound.

This is a value in moving on. The leaving behind of what we should never need.


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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