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The Fulfillment of a Whole Life in the Interval of an Instant

In Stoic texts, there are many comparisons that authors make between life and the arts. Many of the Stoics appreciated the arts in all of their forms. There is something profound about comparing an artist's materialized idea with the roles that we play in society each moment of our existence. In Hadot's translation of The Meditations, Marcus observes a contrast:


"The rational soul... attains its proper end wherever it achieves the limit of its life. It is not like the dance or the theater or other arts of that kind, in which all the action is incomplete if they are interrupted. On the contrary: the action of the rational soul, in each of its parts, and at whatever point one considers it, carries out for itself what it was planning fully and without fault, so that it can say, 'I have reached my fulfillment'" (XI: 1, 1).


It is easy to comment on our failures and disappointments with pessimism. Although, in this passage, Marcus suggests that even fortune's painful interventions can be viewed with a true telos, or end. If someone were to die in that instant, Marcus claims that that person's life is fulfilled. This greatly increases the importance of each moment of our existence, whether uninterrupted or obstructed.

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