In this essay we will see that stoicism is a way of life, since its philosophy still feasible nowadays, I will explain and defend how we can adapt it to our reality, my objective is to find the meaning of stoicism death to learn how to live our life.
We will focus on the topic of death, how the stoics dealt and related to death because today it is a taboo subject that no one wants to talk about because it has a negative connotation, but nevertheless it is of great vitality to change our perception about it so we can lead to a better life.
To understand the role of stoicism nowadays I will give a brief explanation of what Stoicism is:
The name comes from the Greek word (stoa poikile, Griego antiguo: ἡ ποικίλη στοά)
The stoa was the portico of the agora in Athens where the Stoics met to share ideas, its founder was Zeno of Citio in the early third century BC. This is a philosophy of personal ethics based on nature that in turn relied on a rationality of the universe, the Stoics believed that we could not control the world around us, but we could change the perception of what happens to us.
The word death does not have an a priori meaning since it is up to each person to give it one, in this case it has an a posteriori meaning since it is after the process, we call life when our death manages to have a definition according to the way we live and perceive reality.
The following ideas will be discussed in detail later:
For instance, Marcus Aurelius makes reference how the stoics should accept death, since it is a natural process through which we will all go through no matter what, whatever life you have led, death will reach us someday, that is why we must do our best in life to lead a virtuous life.
In addition, Marcus Aurelius wrote in his meditation book the following sentence:
“Don’t look down on death, but welcome it. It too is one of the things required by nature. Like youth and old age. Like growth and maturity. Like a new set of teeth, a beard, the first grey hair. Like sex and pregnancy and childbirth. Like all the other physical changes at each stage of life, our dissolution is no different.”
As has been mentioned bringing to consciousness the subject of death helps us to understand that our stay in this world is just an illusion, and time we have to live is only a grain of sand on the beach, realizing this we will enter into a state of humility and reflection of what we really want to do in this short time we call life to make the best decisions.
In this case I made the Premises of the above argument;
Contrastingly death is just a process of the body and we are currently making great progress in this area. Our organism ages and our cells are destroyed that’s why we die. The fundamental cause of aging is the secondary effects of metabolism: cellular aging and destruction, accumulation of waste and nuclear and mitochondrial mutations causing tumors.
Science is focusing on aging, because if we can slow it down someday, we will be able to stop death completely. In the future death is going to be just another disease and death is going to change its meaning.
Evidently nowadays countless experiments have been made to prolong life and escape death, but do we really want to live forever?
Death has a great metaphysical meaning since it gives meaning to our being, it gives meaning to our whole existence and it is this same limitation that makes us live in the present and give the best of us making the best decisions because someday our life will end and we must strive to achieve our maximum goals while we are alive.
For example, if we could live forever, it would be a big problem, because let's imagine that dystopian world in which nobody dies, then what is the point of life? why make an effort today if I have all the time in the world.
In addition, what will happen with the new births if nobody dies? at some point people would have to be forbidden to reproduce because we will be overpopulated and we would need to increase our food production and that would increase global warming and a lot of more problems, it would be a chain effect of which Hollywood would have a lot of material for their new productions.
This section explores the idea of Epictetus, he gives us a great message because nowadays death has become something horrible because when we hear this word the first thing that comes to our mind is some disease like cancer or some other terminal illness that will be treated in expensive hospitals surrounded by machines and that peculiar smell of hospitals.
In addition, I give you the next sentence that Epictetus wrote in his handbook:
Having established that death is just an opinion, religion has also played its part in disguising the meaning of death, since whatever religion you practice, we have been inter-subjectively indoctrinated with an opinion about death and the horrible processes we have to go through to achieve the eternity of the soul. Therefore, we must put aside our prejudices about death since death in itself is not terrible but the opinion that has been inherit to us generation after generation.
However, is better to put aside prejudices in any situation, we should not discard that we do not have any empirical proof if death is something horrible, since no one who has died has shared their experience with us yet.
It is clear that we should not think we are wise without being so, we should not affirm whether death is horrible or on the contrary beautiful, since we should not have an a priori definition of the meaning of death, since we do not know what awaits us in death or even beyond death, because only until death knocks at our door perhaps that day we will be able to experience the great secrets of death itself.
Another angle of this debate suggest that we really do not know what awaits us at the moment of our death or beyond it, but that is why we must take a stoic attitude and make our best effort to do the best we can while we remain in this world, because whether death is horrible or not, what we can be sure of is that someday death will catch up with us. We cannot avoid the inevitable, but we can prepare ourselves to receive it better.
Another line of thought is that we should focus on the actions that fall on us as our opinions, death does not depend on us, but the opinion we have of it.
That is why it is better to focus on this question; what life do we want to lead before we die?
Finally accepting that life is fragile and fleeting and that someday we will die, wouldn't it be better to start living the life we always wanted to live, always taking into account that we have certain limits, but we have all procrastinated at some time, or we don't do what we want to do because of fear or what others will say, we stay in a comfort zone that, although we don't like it, keeps us afloat. But I remind you that day by day we have less time left, the clock of life is ticking and there is still nothing that can stop it completely yet. Let's try to look for what makes us happy and let's not let time go by, let's start working on it. That will give us a meaning to our life and the day when the clock stops ticking and we meet death we will be ready, since we really live and we were not just automatic human robots.
An example I could give you is that today we live in a monotonous state where every day seems to be the same and we stop being ourselves and we enter an automatic state, we stop using reason and so life slips away day by day without realizing that we are already close to death and we never ask ourselves is this really the life I want, am I doing what I like the most? am I happy? Wake up, remember that we are going to die and whatever your life is, it will drag us leaving this world behind and then we will ask ourselves if it has been worth everything, we have done to reach death.
In conclusion Stoicism is perhaps a philosophy that is not as complete as other schools of thought of ancient Greece, but it is a very important and viable philosophy today because it invites us to take a resilient stance and face life and its obstacles, even if they are good or bad, since these are what forge us and give meaning to our life. It invites us to take a positive attitude towards them since we are only passing through this world and sooner or later, we will perish, therefore we must take advantage and value our life day by day and not get carried away by passing pleasures or problems that will only embitter our lives, but rather use every obstacle in life as an opportunity to put our virtues into practice.
As has been shown Stoic Philosophy is to accept what is not in our control and to know how to appreciate what is in our control in order to do something about it, to accept death since it is still not in our control even though medicine has made great advances in this regard it is still out of our reach, but what is in our control is how we want to live this life, torment ourselves with passing problems or rather focus on solutions and lead a life of excellence reinterpreting what is in our control. How more time we are going to waste forgetting about ourselves and leading a meaningless automatic life, I invite you to be more stoic and reflect on our lives to try to be who we really want to be and live the life we want to live knowing that someday death will be looking at us.
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