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STOIC POETRY | The blessing of a good defeat

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

October 29, 2019

Dear Eric,

I'd like to tell you the tale of my falling, and my recovery. It's a good tale. And most of us have such a tale. Sadly, yours is largely just a story of falling; and there's not much lesson in simply going down, save perhaps as a cautionary tale to those who might likewise stumble. Though I know you'd argue this point with me if you could. But my point is - you can't.


When we fall and then rise, we tell a story of up and down. It is a good tale. A worthy account. And fine instruction for the young, setting out and making ready for their own stumbling journey. But what of the account of our time on the ground? Isn't that something worth sharing as well?

The well-defeated know how to linger well in their defeat; as they've nearly given up; or they have given up - and are ready now to wait out their suffering until either life is done or the universe adjusts its orbit to somehow make things better. They are done...or nearly so. And such defeated simply rest in their fate like stones tumbled to the valley floor. Maybe there will be more to the journey if a flood comes to carry them further down the valley? Or perhaps soon the earth will simply cover them up with dirt for the long end underground... Either way - onward or downward - the well-defeated are ready.

Curiously, such giving in to the onslaught of life reveals some quality of Stoic virtue - though the defeated may hardly feel like philosophers while lying bruised and battered and possibly in pain upon the ground. Though there is some virtue in facing the fact of our having been - or still being - pummeled; and that only death or change await, and that it might be time to simply wait out our suffering in some silence and resolve - resolve to go either on or accept our end, and to be alright with either path - though we'd prefer to go on, though we'd prefer not to suffer more, though we know it may be time to simply still the mind and the body and the tongue while the seconds tick on loudly in our ears. Maybe someone will offer us an aspirin to ease the pain? Or maybe a blanket to keep back the chill? Or maybe a hand up off the ground? But if not, then I will lay here for a piece and consider my ample good fortune in keeping quiet and still. I will exercise virtue in the midst of my fall through silent anticipation of either recovery or the end.


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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