prepare…for the day which we know cannot be avoided
Neverbend is discussing with Crasweller the difficulties of betaking oneself into the college. Crasweller, doing whatever he can to avoid being deposited, attempts to change his age and talks with Neverbend about how he is not be ready to enter the college. Neverbend’s argument for being ready for death has echoes of Seneca’s Epistulae Morales. In Letter 26, Seneca states: “‘Think on death.’ In saying this, [Epicurus] bids us think on freedom. He who has learned to die has unlearned slavery.” Death, for Seneca, is something that will liberate the old person. Neverbend holds a thought in a similar vein as he believes Crasweller’s deposition will liberate Crasweller from his old age and the world. [KS 2012]
Sources: Seneca, Letters 26.10, translated by Richard Motte Gummere.
to obliterate that fear
Neverbend and Crasweller’s discussion about Crasweller’s deposition has taken a pause and Neverbend ponders the fear that Crasweller is feeling. Neverbend notes that it is not because of greed that Crasweller does not wish to be deposited, but rather because of Crasweller’s fear of death, which Neverbend notes as a “human weakness.” Neverbend believes the Fixed Period will liberate people “from so vile a thraldom.” In striving to eliminate a human fear of death, Neverbend has Roman philosophical precedents: the Epicurean Lucretius and the Stoic Seneca. Both Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura and Seneca’s Epistulae Morales contain multiple arguments against the fear of death. [KS & RR 2012]
what duty required of me
As Neverbend mulls over a response to Crasweller, Neverbend posits that his personal feelings should not take precedent over his duty. There are several examples in Classical antiquity of a man believing that his own feelings and interests should not be set above his duty. Cincinnatus, who was a Roman citizen-farmer, was called upon to serve as dictator. In Book 3 of Livy’s History of Rome, Cincinnatus is portrayed as a man who does not want to take upon the duties as dictator, but who knows that, as a citizen called upon by his people, he must serve. [KS 2012]
Source: Livy, The History of Rome 3.26.
Cato and Brutus
Crasweller believes that humans have never viewed suicide in a positive light, but Neverbend thinks of Cato and Brutus, who are honored and respected even after committing suicide. Cato, who supported Pompey, chose suicide after Pompey’s defeat, despite being offered a pardon from Caesar. Brutus, after being defeated by Octavian, also chose death. For Neverbend, these two men chose death rather than old-age and defeat. Cato and Brutus exemplify the sentiments that Neverbend wishes upon Crasweller. [KS 2012]