The Stoics adjure us to lift up our eyes, to walk with God...other creeds try to give us the power of escape by the quickening of the spirit, by the stimulus of passion, of mystic fervor, of dogmatic hope. They strive to give the spirit wings.
The Stoic, on the contrary, plants his feet upon the ground...His appeal is to the personal dignity of man as a sharer in the divine dignity of God. To the Stoics, a man's inner, permanent self is like the image of Pallas Athene in her temple.
It must be kept inviolate, high above the commotion of life, untouched by the marring passions of hate, revenge, grief, or desire; it must be approached and ministered to, even in privacy, with the reverence due to the goddess.
La vie n est ni un plaisir ni une douleur c est une affaire grave dont nous sommes charges qu il faut conduire et terminer avec hon neur
Life is neither pleasure nor a pain; it is a serious business which it is necessary to lead and finish with honor.
~ Henry Dwight Sedgewick, Marcus Aurelius, 1921
I hear the dreaded knock at the aluminum door. I know who it is - it is Fate, once again, come to call. I can see myself as from above, a Camel cigarette hanging from my lower lip, a can of diet pepsi in my hand as I pull the narrow portal open, resigned to admitting the Visitor who waits on the other side.
This world is contained in an old, single-wide mobile home, the kind that has scalloped metal awnings, tinged with rust, that lurk above the windows. Next to the creaky wooden steps by the door, grows an ancient, twisted peach tree that is ever-blooming, still, despite aeons of neglect.
The kitchen has faded pink linolium on the counters and floor; the little living room is dark and padded with mementos; it is actually quite cozy. There's a divan for me, where I lie and read books, and hibernate on days when the wind shreiks outside, and the air is dank and inhospitable. There's deep, soft chair for Him, next to my little bed of pillows and blankets and the stacks of books that are fortressed around me.
He's my only visitor here.
He arrives at different times, in various guises - clothed as Grief, or Shock, or Utter Disbelief.
He is out there, always, in my neighborhood. Others may live where laughter and plans, routine and silliness all collide into what constitutes a regular life. And at times, I venture out there, too. But with His knock, I am instantly called back to this place.
I wait as the door opens - slowly, sometimes, with a dawning horror, or suddenly, with a cold rush of icy terror - and He enters. He is Lord of the Manor.
As a younger woman, I would rail against him, and cry for help into the black of night at a Moon that, high away, cold and yellow, would not listen. I was alone in my battle, time after time, in a test of wills, a life-and-death demonstration of fortitude, of Me vs Him.
But now, with the passing of years, we are well acquainted. Fate has beaten me so many times that I acquiesce to his random visits. I let Him in. He sinks, companionably, into his well-worn chair that is, to him, soft and familiar.
I ask him if He wants a Camel, maybe a pepsi, or something stronger. We sit, side by side, and gaze into the little electric fireplace that is warm with heat, and glitters with electric faux fire, but not flames, like in the real world.
We reminisce about our previous entanglements that have caused us to be, while not friends, then certainly confidants, who rent spaces side by side in the same shabby park.
I was a child whose spirit and imagination had wings. I was free and flamboyant, and yet, deeply thoughtful, even at an age. And Fate will tell you, I was strong and steadfast. I persevered, time after time, to regain a lighthearted posture, an ebullience and frivolity that would make me like other regular people, let me live with them as my neighbors, instead of in the neighborhood of this hulking, morbid presence.
I've tried to leave for good - I really have. Once and for all.
But it's here that you'll find me when tragedy strikes, or disaster, or any of the soul-crushing juggernauts of defeat that Fate dispenses.
I have heard Him knocking; I already know what he's going to tell me.
I let Him in.