Roman Calendar

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Old Age: A Viaticum" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

"Old Age: A viaticum

Provisions for a journey

. . .

A person who is of use to many while living, has no right to choose to die, unless through dying they are of use to more.

Most of all, the work of nature is to make desire and impulse to harmonise with our perception of the appropriate and useful.

Choose to die well while possible, in case it soon becomes necessary for death, but it will no longer be possible to die well. Since the Fates have spun out the lot of death for all, those who die well, not late, are blessed.

Which words provide comfort in old age? The same that are the best for youth too: live methodically in harmony with nature.

. . .

Humanity, better than all creatures on earth, resembles God, and has the same virtues that He has. We can imagine nothing (even in the gods) better than prudence, justice, courage, and moderation. Our conception of God is (through having these virtues)
* unconquered by pleasure or greed
* superior to desire, envy, and jealousy
* moral, generous, and kind
Since humanity (in the image of Him) should be thought of as being like Him when living in harmony with nature . . .

It isn't impossible for humanity to be like this - certainly when we encounter people that we call godly and godlike, we don't have to imagine that these virtues came from anywhere other than human nature.

If we're lucky enough to take the pains to get correct instruction while young - mastering all those good lessons and their practice - then in old age we can use these inner resources to live according to nature - bearing without complaint the
* loss of the pleasures of youth
* weakness of the body
* insults of neighbours
* neglect of relatives and friends
since you would have a good antidote in your own mind: past training.

. . .

The best life, you will agree, is that of a good person - yet even their end is death. Therefore, as I said before, if you can succeed in mastering this lesson in old age - to wait for death without fear and courageously - then you will have acquired much of what you need to live without complaint, in harmony with nature. So I tell you that the best viaticum for old age is the one I mentioned in the beginning - live according to nature, doing and thinking what you ought. In doing so, the elderly would be cheerful, winning the praise of others - living happily and in honour."

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