Machiavelli: Reading, I forget every pain

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When evening has come, I return to my house and go into my study. At the door I take off my clothes of the day, covered with mud and mire, and I put on my regal and courtly garments; and decently reclothed, I enter the ancient courts of ancient men, where, received by them lovingly, I feed on the food that alone is mine and that I was born for. There I am not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their humanity reply to me. And for the space of four hours I feel no boredom, I forget every pain, I do not fear poverty, death does not frighten me. I deliver myself entirely to them.
 
Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), in a letter to Francesco Vettori, 10 December 1513, translated by Harvey C. Mansfield, in The Prince, 2nd ed. (Chicago, 1998)

Venuta la sera, mi ritorno a casa ed entro nel mio scrittoio; e in sull'uscio mi spoglio quella veste cotidiana, piena di fango e di loto, e mi metto panni reali e curiali; e rivestito condecentemente, entro nelle antique corti delli antiqui huomini, dove, da loro ricevuto amorevolmente, mi pasco di quel cibo che solum è mio e ch’io nacqui per lui; dove io non mi vergogno parlare con loro e domandarli della ragione delle loro azioni; e quelli per loro humanità mi rispondono; e non sento per quattro hore di tempo alcuna noia, sdimentico ogni affanno, non temo la povertà, non mi sbigottisce la morte: tutto mi transferisco in loro.

 

Photo of the statue of Machiavelli in the Ufficio Plaza, Florence, by Mr Crash on Flickr


Vonnegut: The Tralfamadorian view of death

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The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral....It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.

The narrator in Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007)

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay


Saint Columba: Today is truly my Sabbath

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Scripture calls this day the Sabbath, which means "rest." Today is truly my Sabbath,
for it is my last day in this wearisome life, when I shall keep the Sabbath after my troublesome labours.
 
Saint Columba on his deathbed, according to The Life of Columba, by Adomnán of Iona, tr Richard Sharpe
 
Picture by William Ballengall (1874), from the British Library

Confucius: We do not know life, how can we know death?

I'm-George-Flickr

Ji Lu asked about the best way to serve ghosts and spirits. The master said, "You have not yet served humans well, how is it you wonder about ghosts and spirits?" Ji Lu ventured to ask about death. The master said, "We do not yet understand life, how could we understand death?"

  --Confucius (ca 551–479 BC), as quoted in The Analects, 先進 (Xian Jin). 

季路問事鬼神。子曰:「未能事人,焉能事鬼?」敢問死。曰:「未知生,焉知死?」


Mary Frye: Do not stand at my grave and weep

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Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

       --Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004). According to Wikipedia, she wrote this poem when a young German-Jewish woman who was staying with her family in Baltimore, Maryland, in the 1930s, when Nazis had taken over Germany, told her how sad she was that when her mother died in Germany, she could not be there to "stand by my mother's grave and shed a tear." The poem has been put to music many times.