It Could Happen to You

“Being unexpected adds to the weight of a disaster, and being a surprise has never failed to increase a person’s pain. For that reason, nothing should ever be unexpected by us. Our minds should be sent out in advance to all things and we shouldn’t just consider the normal course of things, but what could actually happen. For is there anything in life that Fortune won’t knock off its high horse if it pleases her?”

Seneca, Moral Letters, 91.3a-4

I went to a wake yesterday. A friend’s grandmother. It’s much easier to comfort someone else going through a loss than it is to go through that same loss yourself. The Stoics knew this well. This difficulty seems to be the source of at least a few Stoic concepts (e.g. Amor Fati and Negative Visualisation) which they discussed in their writings often and at length. Some more somberly than others. Seneca, for example, tends to be poetically playful in his wording which makes him very fun to read; case-in-point: “For is there anything in life that Fortune won’t knock off its high horse if it pleases her?”

“Think not disdainfully of death, but look on it with favour; for even death is one of the things that nature wills.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9.3

Marcus seems to lean more towards contentment and acceptance, with a dash of cheerfulness in his writing-style. I feel that Marcus is one of the truest embodiments of Amor Fati. Amusingly, Hollywood did not find his writing quite to their taste. Their take on it is simpler, but no-less profound:

“Death smiles at us all, all we can do is smile back.”

Marcus Aurelius, Gladiator

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