Daily Touch of Inspirations
December 20th: Fear the fear of death
Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

Do you then ponder how the supreme of human evils, the surest mark of the base and cowardly, is not death, but the fear of death? I urge you to discipline yourself against such fear, direct all your thinking, exercises, and reading this way— and you will know the only path to human freedom.— Epictetus, Discourses, 3.26.38-39


 

To steel himself before he committed suicide rather than submit to Julius Caesar's destruction of the Roman Republic, the great Stoic philosopher Cato read a bit of Plato's Phaedo. In it, Plato writes, "It is the child within us that trembles before death." Death is a scary because it is such an unknown. No one can come back and tell us what it is like. We are in the dark about it.

As childlike and ultimately ignorant as we are about death, there are plenty of wise men and women who can at least provide some guidance. There's reason that the world's oldest people never seem to be afraid of death: they've had more time to think about it than we have (and they realized how pointless worrying was). There are other wonderful resources: Florida Scott— Maxwell's Stoic diary during her terminal illness, The Measure of My Days, is one. Seneca's famous words to his family and friends, who had broken down and begged with his executioners is another. "Where", Seneca gently chided them, "are your maxims of philosophy, or the preparation of so many years' study against evils to come?" Throughout philosophy there are inspiring brave words from brave men and women who can help us face this fear.

There is another helpful consideration about death from the Stoics. If death is truly the end, then what is there exactly to fear? For everything from your fears to your pain receptors to your worries and remaining wishes, they will perish with you. As frightening as death may seem, remember: it contains within it the end of fear.

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The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

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