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STOIC POETRY | When yesterdays are nevermore

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

There is this folly, Eric, by which we wait to live until death has nearly arrived. The habit begins young, when mortality seems a promise only the old must keep, and we allow opportunity and years then to pass us by as if such things will always come 'round again like the orbit of a moon. Youth and middle age then wax and fade, and we change into a person who we think is an improvement upon the person we once were, and we tell ourselves that it's probably best that we did not act so rashly during youth, when we did not know better, and when we would surely have failed. Picture the cost, we tell ourselves. Imagine our folly. Imagine, indeed.

But we forget that who we once were could think, do, and behave in ways which are now beyond us. And so, the process proceeds, each decade giving way to the next, towards a time when we tell ourselves we will have time, and when we will be wise, and have resources, and hindsight, and freedom, and peace; maturity even, and did I say, time?

"Regarding the good use of time, it is too late to spare when you reach the dregs of the cask. Of that which remains at the bottom, the amount is slight and the quality is vile." -Seneca the Younger

You chose, Eric, to leave life while young, to cash out all opportunity on grounds of principle. As such, you will never know the dilemma of waiting to live, having decided to never really live. I won't argue that point. You knew my position then. You made up your mind and you went your way. But those of us who stay, and live, and grow old know that opportunity never lasts and is indeed perishable; like fresh fruit, which is best eaten and enjoyed this very day, while the sun rises clear and before another night's passage darkens the skin and dampens the luster and the sugars within congeal, giving off odor and drawing tiny flies.

Wanting our youth again from the vantage of old age is like finding and deciding to eat a bowl of yesterday's grapes; something beautiful and sweet which we may yet desire, but which we can no longer enjoy quite so much, or at all. We sample the fare, and reluctantly swallow the sour with the sweet. Or perhaps we will turn aside at the sight of promise gone bad, concealing our mild disgust, telling ourselves that, in fact, we never really wanted grapes; truly, fresh grapes were never what we desired at all. We then perhaps go back to that safe and comfortable chamber where we waited out life, the place where we always chose to stay, our secure bunker below the dangers of what may be; returned now to wait out life's passing, trying to forget how we always promised ourselves tomorrow to live; turning now - and forever maybe - from what we once thought we were, to what we now know we can never be. Our realization complete that from this late juncture where we now live, tomorrows are a dream and yesterdays are nevermore.


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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