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STOIC POETRY | The Principle of Public Speaking

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

November 12, 2019

Dear Eric,

I recently added a new principle to The Good Life which I call the Principle of Public Speaking. The idea is to always imagine that anyone about whom I am talking is beside me, overhearing everything I say about them. In this way, I hope to enlist the normal courtesy and good manners we mostly all follow in not speaking ill or untoward of anyone to their face. Mostly, this strategy works; though sometimes I forget my plan and gossip about someone in ways I hope they never hear. It's an imperfect objective to never gossip about others, though a quite worthwhile aim to improve and strive towards.

Mostly, I think we gossip for the usual reason... Well, it is a usual reason for me, at least; and I am becoming suspicious it is also the usual reason for you as well...for all of us, in fact. We wish to distract ourselves with life. We distract ourselves with the busyness of everything that occupies our mind: We go to school, and work, and make friends, and engage in fun and games and intrigue and drama and watch TV and clean the house and go shopping and take a nap or a walk or play with the dog, or raise kids and create a home and plan for retirement and then get old and perhaps pine for our youth and mull over regrets and how things could have been and tell ourselves of the better life to come when this veil of tears is done...and then we die. All the while we're distracting ourselves from the nothing which looms around our everything. We pretend with our many ways of living that there is no nothing behind and not supporting it all. We imagine we are not indeed floating in space; supported by no force other than gravity, which pulls inexorably towards a center of mass which is our planet, and then another center of mass which is our galaxy, and then still further centers of mass which are the galaxy clusters beyond. All aims ultimately ending within the incomprehensible depths of a galaxy cluster black hole. A mystery to be sure. A fact also to be sure...that if the universe is designed and tuned for seems to be designed and tuned for "the creation of black holes." Not us. What the hell do we make of that? These facts are almost incomprehensible... What do we make of such a place, such a home, such a purpose? I don't know...

And so, we tell each other stories, and we live our lives, and we go to school, and then find a job and take a lover and get married and make children and save for our future and our security and enjoy amusements and we get on with life. And we also talk about one another. We share gossip about our co-workers and our family and our friends and the people we see on television. And thus, the time passes by so soon... A lifetime of living and talking and gossip and distraction. Time passes until the end draws near and we hold our rosary perhaps to count beads - another distraction - until our breathing becomes so labored that we must drop the beads and simply look into the eyes of those who love us and who have come to distract us - and themselves - in our last moments with thoughts of love and togetherness and forever. And we then die and go out like candles with no further need of distraction or any other thoughts. At last we cannot avoid or distract any the thing we sought not to know is now the very thing we have not become.

We’ve more need of gossip. We’ve need of any distraction at all.


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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