Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

The Stoic Life

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I told a man my mind and he asked me “What efforts have you made to destroy this idea? And how may I help to bring it down?” What a worthy friend. So caring of my best interest. Let us war together upon my claims to truth.

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Create a garden within your mind. A place hemmed in by reason. Where you can nurture virtue in true soil. A quiet and simple sanctuary, ever present, always home.

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Virtue is independent of possessions. Though what we have or want may distract us from virtue.

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What is it you can truly touch? Even your raised voice will only carry so far. Distinguish these things. Measure your reach. Attend to practical ends.

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What small routines, mindful actions, and discerning ways reveal the wilderness passage.

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Shout your musings down the corridors of time
They echo and return
Lost at last

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Virtue rests in tempered self reflection. Not much. Just enough to gather the facts. Just enough to gain accurate perspective for the application of reason. Let it go then. And think not of events other than your rational conclusions and the resolutions they entail. And never gawk or dwell upon the circumstance of others, which is an intemperate indulgence, and a distraction from your own true labor. Attend the mending of your own folly, which you alone can repair. And burden not your neighbor with any prying misattentions.

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The routines and vain actions of life are but a bluff and distraction from living. Bright and shiny. New and interesting. Our lives given over to awe and wonder. Our better purpose is ignored. The considered life. The principled life. A life of discipline and temperance. A life spent enacting and enforcing the laws we must ourselves discover and ratify. Police, barrister, judge and perhaps executioner. Engaged in the messy business of applying reason to our base animal thoughts, in the hope of forming something true from instinct, emotion and gasping higher thought. Gasping like a man drowning in the sea of evolved conclusions. And when that higher mind sputters some words of good sense above the waves, how then to remember and live in accord with what we’ve found? When all the sea rages, and none may hear our voice over the froth and din. Still we go on. Swimming towards something better. Straining muscle with willful, disciplined strokes. Until we at last drown. And sink again below the mad waves. Attaining nothing more than the best life we knew how. That’s the thing we seemingly seek to avoid.

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What is the life of inquiry? A mere hobby? Or some culmination of an evolved application of sense? Base musings and actions can satisfy. When our animal needs have our foremost attention. But when the belly is full, and all appetites tamed, and we look yet upon the moon with wonder. Where then will we discover succor? What purchase, consumption or conquest can answer such ephemeral inquiry? Leave off you companions now. Put down your books. Walk a ways and then stop. Look again at the moon. And think.

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Let every act of virtue be self-contained
At once thought, action and reward
Seeking nothing more
And asking no notice or remembrance.

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Do I die now in equanimity? Then I’ve indeed reached a good end.

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The fallow field of the well-lived life is the time between riches, fame and security. A time to cultivate a more true and honest harvest.

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This balanced and tuned apparatus
So frail and fleeting
Upon which my everything is carried
Through places and years
Always now
So near never

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Be responsible for what is within your control. Let others own their own thoughts and flesh.

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My first thought at every challenge
What opportunity this moment virtue?

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How might I bear well this worthy burden
Carry this necessary weight
Tolerate painful right action
Rather than flee to easy salvation

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Humbly acquiesce to sound principal

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When challenge arrives
And panic rises in the heart
Still then the mind
Still more the tongue

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The scope of my control extends to my actions and reactions, and the consequences they might entail. (MMIAC)

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These few square meters of flesh are far more than I can maintain or cultivate. Ruin progresses despite plan and action. My only real estate is my will. A moment by moment application of hard earned best practice. Applied to the ends revealed of Reason.

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I’d rather take less or give up my portion than suffer the loss of nourishing restraint.

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My response is all I really own. The rest are like leaves blown in an autumn wind.

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I’d rather possess that which I cannot own. A few things beyond the corruption of time, influence or bias. The comfort of self discipline. The certainty of doubt. The sobriety of looking death in the eye.

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My allegiance to the thoughts of another is of no real interest
For a borrowed world view fits and wears like another man’s jacket
Baggy or tight in places
With an unfamiliar fit, feel and odor
A strange sense of wearing someone else’s skin
Which speaks nothing of my true character or principals

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Man and womanhood are sufficient ends
To a stout and earnest mind
Dismissive of distraction
Heedless of precedent
Careless of legacy
Fearless of death
Consumed of resolve
To speak one true thing

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It’s easy to become a monster
Simply follow
When you know you should lead
Your spirit will die
And something hollow
And rotten
Will fill the empty space

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Peace is easy
When expectation is reduced
To the level of reality

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To give more
And want less

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So little action is truly necessary
So much thought a wasteful expense
Equanimity its own true end
Easily achieved
Though honest living
Tempered appetite
And realistic expectation

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May the coming day’s trials b borne nobly and her blessings consumed in moderation.

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Do you attend your dying breath in this present moment? How much more worthy a pursuit than philosophy. I’d rather reckon each exhalation, in deep fastidious awe, than the gilded words of the holy and wise. Indeed, if their wisdom be true, they’d silence their speech and mind in mute attendance of their own mortality, and the consequent vista thus revealed. *

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To a mind which has risen above fortune, both the necessary and superfluous actions of the day become like attendance to a disinterested game of chess. For while our mind and body must periodically engage the game and move the pieces, our deeper attendance is to matters more worthy of our true character and aim. *

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The scope of my control extends to my thoughts, actions and reactions, and the consequences these might entail.

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Long life is enjoyed by those who attend their moments above all other concerns.

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As I have no one to pray to, I’ll instead suggest an admonition to myself. Let my footsteps be slow today, to delay the world in its orbit, and force time to better measure and dispense its precious ration. Let my mealtime portions be small, let me endure the healthy want of food in proportion to my usual excess. Let me then grow lean and strong as a consequence, better able to survive, endure, and appreciate the true suffering of those without. And let my thoughts be  very few and small, just a few words this hour and the next; ideas sufficient to my true need, or better still, my honest lack thereof. *

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The faculty of choice is most keenly exercised at rough and unexpected life juncture. Does misfortune rise in our way? Does death approach? Is it not now in our power to exercise discretion and judgement in recognizing what is within our control? Have we not utter claim over our thoughts, actions and reactions? Do we not possess the ability to watch with equanimity as our fortunes rise and fall again, correcting our course with judicious turns of the rudder, aiming for the open sea yet breathing calmly as we become ruined upon the rocks and plunge beneath the waves. Our opinion and judgement of things lie outside the pale of all external forces besides ignorance, disease and death, which may first weaken and then destroy our resolve and capacity to stand. But until that time we’ve power enough to select and will our own footing. To observe and recognize the vast machinery of the universe’s headlong tumble towards tomorrow, and to know both the scope and scale of our meager influence. *

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How much better a retiring mind than a retiring body. The first may be attained at any stage in life, at least so far our philosophy permits. The latter only upon leisure, and the gross accumulation of sustaining resource. Liberate the mind at once through the discipline of reason, and you may then work hard to the end of your days in contented leisure. *

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What opportunity this? Does my leg ache? Fortitude. Does my neighbor complain? Patience and an attentive ear. Have I lost my job, or reputation, or security? Resilience and apathy. Does my life now come to an end? Resignation to facts, and a loving smile to those from whom we must now depart. *

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Tempered consumption forms a firm bedrock to philosophy. Observe appetite with caution, as you would any passion; sample it to determine if it is mean, base or sound. If wholesome, partake less than you’d like; leave always the appetite wanting; become strong through willful resistance. If our temptation is unsavory, empty, or lacking in virtue, then leave it aside altogether; starve instead on a feast of fortitude.*

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I’ve declined to a place where my poverty is secure from fortune. I’ve so little of real worth that my desire for more is fully satiated. I owe no mortgage to reason, own outright my capacity to choose, pay no tax on apathy, and wield discretion like a sovereign. This outpost of peace was always near within my ignorance. Easily attained though the journey required fifty years. I owe thanks to Seneca, Epictetus, Aurelius, Emerson and Thoreau for suggesting the way. *

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Apathy arms us with the same indifference which the universe wields in the execution of its mindless purpose. We stride through life bestowing benevolence in true proportion to our capacity; sharing unalloyed generosity and love, rich in the giving, expecting nothing in return. *

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The will of apathy is neither mean nor small attention, but freedom from undue investiture; to apply our focus and efforts wisely, to make good and useful ends of our days, to be a benefit to mankind, and not burn our energies over useless kindle and conflagration. *

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The optimist’s bright luster cannot be dulled by apathy, nor their charity, kindness or philanthropy. Indeed these qualities are enhanced and made potent through a distilled and refined focus; the narrow and distinct possession of mind which comes of knowing what is, and what is not, within our own control. *

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Would you detain or lament Death’s rightful trespass; throw up protest and curse perceived misfortune; cry like a child denied sovereignty over all they see and know? To what end…that your gravity and equanimity might go first before the gallows? *

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I was asked today by a friend about my thoughts on the topic of worthwhile employ. Should the best occupation yield leisure and option to my heirs? Provide a catapult and catalyst to the next generation’s situation and state? At the time I was asked I thought such an aim both worthy and admirable. But upon some reflection I see now little good in laying up my days against the improvement of my heirs. For if the better aim of virtue is a mature capacity of wisdom, enlivened with fortitude, made lean and impervious of apathy, and grave of self-control; then how much better to offer our heirs instead of wealth, the worthy example of our well-borne poverty, and the steady resolve, and still motion, of a body and mind at peace with self-control. *

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How might I become impervious to well-being, develop an immunity to good fortune, and make the good life a reality despite every blessing. *

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My poverty cannot withstand the price of so much good fortune. *

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My tribe are those who currently stand among brambles, wondering how they got there, bleeding a bit from the thorns, observing no trail back. Perhaps a book like Walden sent them this way; though by now they’ve far less use of a guide. Indeed, what wilderness is this that requires a guide; when every direction is in, and there’s now far too few rations for retreat. My tribe will know this place, though none of them are about. They’ll find me here long after I’m dead. I’ll leave them some marks. I sometimes spot marks of those who have gone before me; faint, strange, nearly indecipherable the further I go. There are older marks still, appearing fresh as the day they were made. *

Citations

* Included in “My Muse is a Corpse”

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