Why death is inevitable but aging isn’t – letter 26

In these series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In letter 26 Seneca describes how to approach death and aging.

You are dying every day in small, incremental ways …

Celebrate aging

I was telling you recently that I started to feel old. On second thoughts, I don’t even consider myself as old. That is now behind me. Why? Well, because I don’t feel too bad at all. Some old people feel exhausted both physically and mentally, but my mind is as alert as ever. I only wish that my body was too!

I now think that we should celebrate old age. As we have a lifetime of knowledge and experience to drawn upon. So, while my thinking is still sharp there is much to be grateful about. For example, I know that aging is outside of my control. It allows me to consider what is in my control such as what I want to do with my time.

Our struggle with impermanence causes much, if not all, of our suffering. We don’t want things to change, we want things to be the way we want them. And when they aren’t, we are stressed out, frustrated, disappointed, grieving, mourning, wishing things were different.

But what if we could accept this impermanence, accept the reality of this moment? The impermanent, ever-changing nature of life can cause stress, frustration, sadness and anger. But when we embrace the impermanence and work with it, life can be a joy, and we can appreciate the painful beauty of this temporary existence.

I also know that over the next few years my mind and body will slowly wear out. Each year will see me wear out and my faculties melt away. That is assuming that I don’t suddenly die.


But whatever way I go, the people I leave behind can judge me on how virtuous I was. Only then can others sum up your life and determine the impact you made. At that point your deeds will speak louder than your words. So my advice to you is to take some time out to reflect on your whole life. What sort of person do you want to be? Are you a role model for this behaviour? If not, then why? Don’t try to deceive yourself about why you are acting in a less than virtuous way. Be the best possible version of you that you can be.

And try to satisfy yourself that you have accepted the inevitability of death. Once you do then maintain control your thoughts and choices. If you can do this then you will always be free. Free of the fear that comes with the thought of the moment of death. After all you are dying every day in small, incremental ways.

Take care.

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Photo by Aleksandar Popovski on Unsplash

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