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Posts tagged the consolations of philosophy.

We must learn to suffer whatever we cannot avoid. Our life is composed, like the harmony of the world, of discords as well as of different tones, sweet and harsh, sharp and flat, soft and loud. If a musician liked only some of them, what could he sing? He has got to know how to use all of them and blend them together. So too must we with good and will, which are of one substance with our life.

Montaigne, via Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy

There are few better remedies for anxiety than thought. In writing a problem down or airing it in conversation we let its essential aspects emerge. And by knowing its character, we remove, if not the problem itself, then its secondary, aggravating characteristics: confusion, displacement, surprise.

At the time of Caligula’s accession to the throne, away from the high politics in a household in Rome, a mother lost her son. Metilius had been short of his twenty-fifth birthday and a young man of exceptional promise. He had been close to his mother Marcia, and his death devastated her. She withdrew from social life and sank into mourning. Her friends watched with compassion and hoped for a day when she would regain a measure of composure. She didn’t. A year passed, then another and a third, and still Marcia came no closer to overcoming her grief. After three years she was as tearful as she had been on the very day of his funeral. Seneca sent her a letter. He expressed enormous sympathies, but gently continued, ‘the question at issue between us [is] whether grief ought to be deep or never-ending.’