“Live Your Life”

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about their religion.

Respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long, and its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you must go over the great divide.

Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living; if you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.

Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools, and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.

Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

— Chief Tecumseh (March 1768-October 5, 1813)

Before sophomore language this year, this poem was one of my favorites. It might not be a poem in any formal manner that we’re familiar with, perhaps being more like “words of wisdom,” but nonetheless the word “poetic” seems applicable. While reviewing Plato’s Phaedo, I realized how similar the words here are to Socrates’ sentiment in the dialogue. As we may recall, Socrates doesn’t fear his death, he doesn’t weep, and he is even seen composing music in the days before his death, like Tecumseh’s death song. Tecumseh and Socrates both purvey the same attitude that death is not to be feared. It may be said that Socrates dies like a sort of hero, since heroes are not supposed to fear danger nor death. I find it interesting how two very different men, separated by many centuries and many miles, are speaking about death in the same way. Unless Tecumseh was familiar with Plato, it shows that while we will eventually die, living an excellent and virtuous life negates any real reason to fear it. Call me weird but I printed Tecumseh’s poem and stuck it to my whiteboard in my dorm room. I find that the words are difficult to argue with–indeed, they are inspiring words to “live your life” by.

Thank you for reading!

Andrew Penman