Death and Side-Parts: Or, Only the Appearance of Good and Evil

Seneca, Moral Epistle  82.13-16

“But, as I began to say, you observe that death is neither bad nor good. Cato met it with the most honor; Brutus faced it most shamefully. Every affair that did not have glory assumes it when virtue is added. We claim that a bedroom is shining and bright when the same place is the darkest at night. Days infuse it with light and night take it a way.

That’s the way it is which those things which are indifferent to us and called middling like wealth, strength, beauty, honors, offices and their opposites such as death, sickness, exile, pain and all similar evils: we get more or less upset because we fear them, but wickedness or virtue gives a name of good or evil.

A thing is not hot or cold through itself. It becomes warm when it is tossed in a furnace and gets cold again when plunged into water. Death is honorable because it is related to an honorable thing, that is virtue and a soul rejecting the worst behaviors.

There are also huge differences in the things we put in the middle class. For instance, death is not as meaningless as whether you part your hair in the middle or on the side. Death is one of those things which are not evil but have the appearance of evil. For we have a native love of protecting and preserving ourselves coupled with a reluctance of returning to nothing because death seems to deprive us of many good things, to take us away from the plenty we have gotten used to.

There is also another aspect that alienates us from death: we know those other things, but we shudder at the unknown, and we are ignorant about where we are going in the future. It is only natural, then, to fear the world of shadows where death allegedly takes us. So, while death is an indifferent to us, it is still not something we can ignore. The soul needs to be strengthened through rigorous practice to tolerate death’s sight and approaching step.”

Sed, ut coeperam dicere, vides ipsam mortem nec malum esse nec bonum; Cato illa honestissime usus est, turpissime Brutus. Omnis res quod non habuit decus, virtute addita sumit. Cubiculum lucidum dicimus, hoc idem obscurissimum est nocte. Dies illi lucem infundit, nox eripit; sic istis, quae a nobis indifferentia ac media dicuntur, divitiis, viribus, formae, honoribus, regno et contra morti, exilio, malae valetudini, doloribus quaeque alia aut minus aut magis pertimuimus, aut malitia aut virtus dat boni vel mali nomen. Massa per se nec calida nec frigida est; in fornacem coniecta concaluit, in aquam demissa1 refrixit. Mors honesta est per illud, quod honestum est, id est virtus et animus extrema contemnens.

Est et horum, Lucili, quae appellamus media, grande discrimen. Non enim sic mors indifferens est, quomodo utrum capillos pares an inpares habeas. Mors inter illa est, quae mala quidem non sunt, tamen habent mali speciem; sui amor est et permanendi conservandique se insita voluntas atque aspernatio dissolutionis, quia videtur multa nobis bona eripere et nos ex hac, cui adsuevimus, rerum copia educere. Illa quoque res morti nos alienat, quod haec iam novimus, illa, ad quae transituri sumus, nescimus, qualia sint, et horremus ignota. Naturalis praeterea tenebrarum metus est, in quas 16adductura mors creditur. Itaque etiam si indifferens mors est, non tamen ea est, quae facile neglegi possit. Magna exercitatione durandus est animus, ut conspectum eius accessumque patiatur.

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