Death: why it isn’t the end – Letter 4

My interpretation of the Moral letters by Seneca. In Letter 4, Seneca discusses the fear of death. And how it can help you to maintain a focus on what’s important in life.

Achieve calmness by tackling your fear of death and desire for a longer life. Fear of the moment of death is pointless anyway as your existence leaves you constantly. It isn’t as though all your whole life disappears in one go.

It’s a little like having money in a bank account where you withdraw a small amount each day. If the bank closes suddenly you have lost less than you started with. Don’t concentrate on the last moment when it’s too late to spend your money. Use the money when you still can. If you do this with life then there is nothing to worry about.

Death and time

We have lots of time in our lives to accomplish our goals. But instead we spend it on external things, distractions that don’t matter. By the time we’re on our deathbeds, only then do we realize how much time we wasted. Only then do we see that life is not short, but that we chose to make it that way.

Life has lots of opportunities to cause a person to worry about death, some of these are more commonplace than others. There are always hazards and perils, and the ways to lose what you own. I’m not suggesting you take no notice of these as it is prudent to be cautious. But I don’t recommend allowing these to always occupy your thoughts. If from time to time you reflect on these, then it’ll help you to be more resilient if they happen.

Change the way you look at your remaining time here. You need to see time as a finite resource that you spend. Be careful and selective when you choose your activities. Never waste time, always use it. Sometimes you’ll use your time for fun, and sometimes you’ll use your time for work. Whatever you do, never waste it. Spend your time here wisely because if you do life will be exactly as long as you need it to be.

Death isn’t the end.

I don’t believe in an afterlife, not in the traditional religious sense of heaven or hell. But I do believe that what we think of as death is just a continuation of an ongoing process.

Everything is like this: part of an ongoing process, without a real beginning or end. People included. In fact, what we think of as a person is just a part of the ongoing process of the world.

Embrace the impermanence of life: yes, you’ve lost someone great, but the fleetingness of your time with anyone makes that time more valuable, something to be cherished, more sweet because of its evanescence. This ever-changing nature allows for reinvention, which means you can decide who the new you will be, what your new life will be. Because reinvention is possible — actually a fact of life — you were able to be influenced by this loved one while they were with you, as you couldn’t have been if you always stayed the same.

Finally, let this death be a stark reminder of the impermanence of life, and let that reminder spur you to make the most of what you have left of this dewlike life. In this light, if the loved one’s death is a lesson on making the most of life … then wasting life on wishing things were different would be a waste of your loved one’s death.

Take care.

Photo by Fey Marin on Unsplash

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