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STOIC POETRY | The virtue of temperance

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

For what reason is temperance a virtue? Why do the sages live in austerity, and the desert fathers forsake the world, and the poet love their solitude, and the saints give up their lives? Is it because consumption is recognized as a distraction? That when we do eat of the world we make it less, and our vision and senses become blurred with the feast of life and gluttony makes us filthy, sleepy, and sick. But we do it anyway, we join the feast, because we neither care about the world as it really is - wishing only to get through this life to the other side - or we prefer the feast of living as a simple end in itself, like the pleasure of warm company in a snug home where the door and shutters and drawn and lashed against the storm smothering the world outside. Let us then make more noise and become yet more merry - more wine and food! - until the sound of wind, thunder, and rain without cannot be heard. In such a way - with such distraction - may life be passed.

I will keep my hand at my side, While my want, wishes me to partake. I will hold my tongue, Which desires to speak. And my mind will be kept silent, Though someone within, Does ceaselessly speak.

For myself, I will not be so detained. I will not join the feast, though I know there is no better use of time than simply passing time. Strange thing that - that the thing I do not want is as good as the thing I instead choose to pursue. But this very understanding is the actual end I am after; which is affirmed not in the company of friends; but out there in the dark, and in the night; out there where there are none to comfort or hold my hand; out there where strange things prowl in the wet and the cold, and hunger demands reality, and fear sweeps back the feign curtain of pretend forevers and a one day eternal peaceful sleep. I will not remain inside while the darkness goes on so without. I will lower my hand now from the table, I will hold still my wagging tongue, and I will refuse the inner voice which does not fail; and I will step away and go out the door to discover the storm and the night and the cold and the wind and whatever else might truly be real.

And so I will deny myself some morsels of life distraction; not because these things are bad; but because these things are not, to me, more true.


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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