When I was a FreshPerson in a new higher school,
our English Literature class was delighted
to meet a new to our rural area Ms. Liska,
who was a beautiful teacher
and so we all loved her,
and knew she loved us as well,
although sometimes not happy with one or another
due to smart-ass behavior.
for reasons we could not imagine at the time,
nor would I remember in this rhyme
of metaphysical reasons for living
asked if any of us had heard of Marcus Aurelius.
Whom I happened to be reading at the time.
So I was, as I recall,
surprised to see only my hand up
because I had probably just volunteered
to display my FreshPerson ignorance.
She did in fact go there
and ask just whom I thought Aurelius was,
which seemed to me
a Roman Emperor
who was also a published Stoic philosopher.
And so it seemed to Ms. Liska as well
so why not dig the Stoic grinding ax some deeper?
And what is Stoicism?
are not my strength,
I’m more of a delineating guy.
So I thought a Roman Stoic
might be like a British Churchill,
keeping a stiff upper lip
having looked at all our deadly facts
and blundering on anyway
with this mysterious life of stoicism.
Of course Ms. Liska
would not allow stoicism to rear its obstinate head
within its own stubborn definition
so she kindly invited me to try again,
not because I was wrong,
she quickly added,
but because I could become even more right.
Marcus Aurelius reminds us
if life is indeed a bed of roses
then we should expect some deadly thorns
along life’s thunderous way.
He invites us to embrace our birthday
this celebration is paid back
with an ultimate death day,
as what grows up must also fade down
It’s a package deal.
Accepting this package as gift
in its life and death polarities
is a stoic thing to do,
and a delusional thing
not to do,
a Greek act of hubris;
not very Roman patriotic,
not stoically realistic.
Ms. Liska found this better
than my stoic thorns
along life’s bed of dying roses way.
then we skipped along to something else
and I never did have my time
to ask her what she thought
about similarities and differences
between who has authority to induce life
and whom might, then,
find responsibility for deducting my life,
or more stoically otherwise,
like a hungry Roman Emperor
or voracious bear.
For it seemed to me
quite transparently true
that in accepting my right to live
and do the best I could
to stoically tolerate
everybody else’s own acceptance of their right to live
and do the stoic best we can
with life’s inevitable ups and downs,
then we must agree with our inherited justice system,
and to live within a just war view of stoic death
is also an unjustified view of my authority to live responsibly.
I was no more authoritative
and remain no less responsible
for causing my own stoic life to begin
than to end my own life,
much less anyone else’s,
or to delegate authority
to some tired State
to do this for me.
I think Marcus Aurelius
was more stoically comfortable
with society’s right
each person who has taken a life
to become responsible enough
to consider choosing their own death
within a wider ecological context
of restorative justice.
But, just, fair, equitable restoration of a life
does not in any way,
not even a stoic way,
suggest society’s collective right
to irresponsibly take yet another life
now lived across a threshold
beyond which we cannot responsibly live
In choosing to kill,
in choosing to sanction acts of deadly violence,
in choosing to maim and harm,
in choosing deadly and imprisoning revenge,
we stoically choose our own death day
with no more or less authority and responsibility
than for our own birthday,
and each day that follows
between life’s roses
and deadly shaming blaming thorns,
devoid of restorative justice opportunity,
for each and all EarthTribe.
It is difficult to teach how to stoically fall on one’s own responsible sword
when raised in a military-industriously violent society
determined to competitively invest millions of dollars
in deadening revenge
rather than enlivening sacred invitations
to more stoic restorative justice,
celebrating life feeds life birthdays
and eulogizing death breeds death days
lost in mythic pasts
when we first sacrificed virgin children
to a drought-inducing
Vengeance is Mine
even before Holy Roman Empires.
Justice as revenge
assumes our competitive choices
are between brands of death,
while restorative justice,
more stoically balanced,
presumes if we did not first, more primally,
have cooperative choices between brands of life,
then branding and marketing justified death
would remain an ecological and historical moot point
of LoseLose vengeful nihilism.
And so I continued in my smart-ass ways,
wondering what Ms. Liska would think
about balancing our right to life
with fight against condoning death
except where stoically chosen.