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STOIC POETRY | The pursuit of virtue

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

September 10, 2019

Dear Eric,

You and I never got around to discussing the concept of nihilism; the idea that life is essentially devoid of intrinsic meaning. That's a tough sentence to write even. As it feels like a slap to the face of decency: Life without meaning... What nonsense! Well, I'd like to qualify this idea with the word "apparent," as I strongly reserve the right to be wrong on this issue. In fact, I rather hope I am wrong. However, all of my experience of life to-date suggests that life is indeed without "apparent" meaning, with the exception of one thing...reproduction.

Each living organism seems to come alive with a mandate to stay alive and make more of itself. In a sense then, this is a clear meaning and purpose of life. Although it's a purpose which rings rather hollow in terms of the loftier human dignity we so often wish upon ourselves. Is that it? Just life? Just making babies?? For myself, I answer yes and no. Yes, to the fact that staying alive and making copies of ourselves seems life's sole intrinsic purpose. And we humans are good at it, with almost eight billion of us on the planet now. But I'm not satisfied with just this purpose. It's too hollow for my taste. So, I decided years ago to make my own purpose. I made up my own definition of The Good Life, and the life well-lived, and the life of meaning, and the life of purpose.

My purpose is a life of virtue, where this word is defined as the improvement of well-being: better circumstances, better relations, better livelihood, better everything. My adopted purpose then is to simply try and live in such a way that the fact of my living reduces suffering and increases well-being - for humans, other animals and the planet in general. It's a good purpose. Quite satisfying. Though I know it's contrived... But that's fine. As contrived good is as wholesome as intrinsic good, especially when we forget the depth of Indifference which swirls beyond us in the universe at large, like a great maelstrom of empty. But sometimes I like to remind myself of this "apparent" true fact of empty. And so I go into the deep universe sometimes. I go alone. And I don't look back until I've had a good eyeful of the nothing. And then I return. Possibly wounded and hobbling, and a bit deranged - like after this past weekend - taking days perhaps to fully recover my sense and sensibility. And then I remember - and cannot forget - and this memory tempers my living with an "apparent" truth I do not want, yet which I cannot deny. I see the empty. And I decide to live well in spite of it.

Nihilism May be a fearful thing If you don't go out to see What it really isn't

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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