Thou art a little soul bearing about a corpse, as Epictetus used to say.Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.41
Finally! Epictetus gets a shoutout! Let’s see what old Epictetus used to say:
So what we’re being reminds of is what we talked about on Tuesday, right? This is just a body, a worthless nothing, a shell for our consciousness, a container—it’s not the body that matters, it’s what we’re doing with our consciousness! Are we using our consciousness to flee our appropriate duty? For the sake of what? For the sake of what our body wants? Namely to avoid pain or death? Is this how we want to go on living? Do we want to live by avoiding death through the doing of unjust things? Do we want to fail to be brave when we need to be? Fail to be just when need to be? Fail to be what we know we should be when we need to be just so we can go on living?
And living what, exactly? What are we living after making those sorts of concessions? Are we living a life? I mean, perhaps in a literal sense we are living a life, yes, but is it a life worth living?
What did Aristotle say? “The unexamined life is not worth living!” The Stoics take that a step further, by suggesting that the life spent striving towards virtue is the only life worth living, and, therefore, if you’re going to live a life avoiding the pursuit of virtue, then why the hell are you living? For the pleasures of your husk? Your container? I mean, really? That’s it? What sort of challenge is that? What sort of worthwhile thing is that? Sex, wine, money, food, all the time, 24/7, and when you die, what can you say of yourself on your deathbed?
Well, I suppose if you’re happy with it, and you think that’s all that matters, then, to you, that’s all that matters… but if that’s you, you’re not Stoic, and you should probably stop pretending to be one. Or, and I hope, if this does describe you, that this episodes turns you around, OR you can realize that you’re not really making the effort Stoicism requires of you and you can decide, today, right the heck now, to change that behavior. Because whether your 14, 30, 50, or 90, it’s not too late to start caring about your virtue and seeing it, as the Stoics did, as the only good, and the only thing truly worth striving after.