Contemplating Seneca #15 On Youthful Enthusiasm

There are some things my son does that drives me crazy. He is too old to be exhibiting certain behaviors. Why is he not maturing at the pace I expected?

I remember a day at the beach. My best friend, his dog, and I on a rather secluded Florida beach. While my friend and his dog played in the sand, I sat in the surf staring off into the distance. This was my sanctuary, my place to become one with nature. We were both around thirty years old. There I was with all my stoic reserve as he played like a child. He even told me I should do it. I wanted to, but unfortunately, I forgot how. I grew past that stage and felt silly even considering it.

Hang on to your youthful enthusiasm…you’ll be able to use them better when you’re older.

Seneca

I thought I had lost that youthful enthusiasm. Reconnecting with it comes and goes these days. When it does come, I have the joy of a long-lost childhood. All my worries dissipate. I hope my son never loses his childlike enthusiasm. I hope my frustration isn’t so visible that it deters him from his play. Once it is gone, it is difficult to regain. Alec, hold onto it. Don’t let it go and don’t let me be the one to stop you.

Emperor’s Log #6 What Should We Prize?

What was I designed to do? I study, learn, experience, and try to help others. I take of myself, my family, and the land I live on. When I work toward these pursuits, I am doing what I was designed to do.

What was I not designed to do? Everything that was not mentioned above. Everything else falls into one of two categories: laziness and procrastination. I was not designed to be lazy. And if I get busy doing something I was not designed to do, then I am just procrastinating on the things I was designed to do. I was built for action, not inaction.

*What is it in ourselves that we should prize?

What is it in ourselves that we should prize?

I think it’s this: to do (and not to do) what we were designed for. That’s the goal of all trades, all arts, and what each of them aims at: that the thing they create should do what it was designed to do.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditation 6:16

Going after the things I wasn’t designed to do will leave me in a bad state. My soul will desire what it is not getting. I will be always wanting and never satisfying the hunger within. And the worst part is that I will be gaining that which I do not want. For example, my body was designed to be in motion and to eat real food. If instead, I choose to sit around all day and eat junk, I will not be doing what I was designed to do. Instead of getting the body I want, I will get a body that is weak and fat.

And if you can’t stop prizing a lot of other things? Then you’ll never be free—free, independent, imperturbable. Because you’ll always be envious and jealous, afraid that people might come and take it all away from you.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditation 6:16

Free, independent, imperturbable. That is the prize of doing what we were designed for. That is a prize we should all pursue.


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Examining Epictetus #27 A Life That Flows Smoothly

Whoever is making progress, after learning from philosophers that desire is directed toward good things and avoidance directed toward bad, and having also learned that impassivity and a good flow of life are not attained except through unerring desire and unfailing avoidance—that person will do away with desire altogether, or else defer it to another time, and exercise avoidance only on things within the moral sphere.

Discourses 1.4.1

I listened to the lecture as if Epictetus was alive and speaking directly to me. I know how many times I have failed in the past. I am afraid of how many more failures are to come if I cannot learn from my mistakes. The only choice comes in what I do in the present moment.

All my failures are the result of poor choices. I have gone to life’s creditors too many times and have racked up a massive amount of debt. It was a buy now and pay later in almost every aspect of my life.

I have the standard debt that has now become the norm today: mortgage, car payments, a little on a credit card here, a little on a loan there. If I only purchased based on what I physically had, I would be in the black. As it stands, I only see red.

These days, I generally consume less calories than I burn. Why? Because I am paying off the debt in my body.  Like my financial ledger, my body is in the red. Rather than temperance, I withdrew from the banks of gluttony, drunkenness, and laziness. They freely gave, and I took more than my fair share.

My mind is paying off a debt as well. I could have kept my head down and stayed in my studies. Instead, I wasted my formative years with my eyes on the digital screens. Rather than learning, I chose vain pursuits that used up my greatest asset: time.

In a nutshell, I didn’t contemplate good or bad. I erred toward the bad indulging in the fleeting pleasures of the moment. I made poor choices resulting in debt that I am still paying today.

But if virtue holds this promise—to secure happiness, impassivity, and a good flow of life—then progress toward virtue must involve progress toward these other states as well. For wherever the perfection of anything tends, progress is always an approach towards the same thing.

Discourses 1.4.3-4

I couple of years ago I started a new blog series covering the seven virtues. I felt compelled to write these for my son, compelled to train him toward a life of virtue. I wanted him to be happy, to be a champion in all he pursued, and to have a good flow of life.

How could I train him if my own life was lacking in those areas? Therefore, I put in constantly in my mind. I studied the words and lives of those who went before me. And then, I wrote. In the beginning, I was at odds internally. How could I write to others about things that I continued to struggle with in my own life? Thus began my evolution. I had to be self-effacing and write of my struggles. Rather than be a hypocrite, I had to write many of the messages to myself. I was directing myself toward the promise of virtue.

What is the goal of virtue, after all, except a life that flows smoothly?

Discourses 1.4.5b

This is what I want for my son. Even more so, it is what I want for myself. Before my journey into virtue,  I was a ship tossed at sea. Every trifle, no matter how small, threatened to capsize me. Instead of controlling the things within my power, I looked to the things outside and played the victim.

To have the life that flows smoothly, I must be the rock Marcus Aurelius spoke about that the waves crash over, standing unmoved while the rage of the sea falls still around it. The rock does not cry out for a respite. Instead, it does what the rock was designed for and bends the sea to its very existence. Rather than conforming to the whims of the world and allowing it to sweep me away from my intended destination, I must bend the pattern around me. I must be the rock.

Look for it in your volition, friend—that is, in your desire and avoidance. Make it your goal never to fail in your desires or experience things you would rather avoid; try never to err in impulse and repulsion; aim to be perfect also in the practice of attention and withholding judgment.

Discourses 1.4.11

To live the virtuous life is simply a matter of choice. It is a matter of righteousness. Choose what is good and right; avoid what is bad and evil. As Epictetus states, our goal is to desire good and not fail in obtaining it. Likewise, avoid the bad and not fail in doing so.

I love the last line in the above selection: aim to be perfect in the practice. It is a goal, not a demand. If you can do it, great! If not, try again next time. The hope is for progress. And what is the progress we are targeting? Being in the present moment and making no rash judgments. It sounds like being even-keel and level-headed, like a rock amongst the waves.

Where is progress, then? If there is anyone who renounces externals and attends instead to their character, cultivating and perfecting it so that it agrees with nature, making it honest and trustworthy, elevated, free, unchecked and undeterred; and if they’ve learned that whoever desires or avoids things outside of their control cannot be free or faithful, but has to shift and fluctuate right along with them, subject to anyone with the power to furnish or deprive them of these externals; and if from the moment they get up in the morning they adhere to their ideals, eating and bathing like a person of integrity, putting their principles into practice in every situation they face—the way a runner does when he applies the principles of running, or a singer those of musicianship—that is where you will see true progress embodied, and find someone who has not wasted their time making the journey here from home.

Discourses 1.4.18-21

Control what is your power to control. That is the key to the smooth flow of life. And that, my friend, is progress.


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Contemplating Seneca #6   How Much Is Enough?

Nature’s Provisions

There was a time when food was just food. If you were hungry, your goal was to satisfy it. It didn’t matter if it was meat, vegetables, or bread. What mattered was removing the emptiness in the belly.

Nature had a way of providing what we needed. Granted, we had to work for it, often barely making do. But as a species, we survived. We took what we could get in the season we were in.

He who has much desires more—a proof that he has not yet acquired enough; but he who has enough has attained that which never fell to the rich man’s lot—a stopping-point.

Seneca, Letter 119: On Nature as Our Best Provider

Going Beyond

Somewhere along the timeline, we changed. No longer were we content with what Nature gave us. We wanted more. We wanted to fill our plates to overflowing going back for seconds and thirds. We wanted every day to be a feast day gorging ourselves beyond what Nature intended.

There is therefore no advice—and of such advice no one can have too much—which I would rather give you than this: that you should measure all things by the demands of Nature; for these demands can be satisfied either without cost or else very cheaply.

Hunger is not ambitious; it is quite satisfied to come to an end; nor does it care very much what food brings it to an end.

Seneca, Letter 119: On Nature as Our Best Provider

We became pickier. No longer was it enough to just have food, we had to have it on the Fine China so our guests could see how well-to-do we were. We insisted on the delicacies, the fancy pastries, and the decadent desserts. Nature provided what we needed; it gave us a limit. Yet we broke the limit and went from need to want. And when nature no longer provided what we wanted, we in our arrogance said we could do better. Therefore, we added to it, we modified it, and even politicized it. That which was natural became unnatural. And the consequences? One doesn’t have to look far. The planet suffers just like our bodies suffer.

There was a time when we worshipped the sun. Now, we eschew it for artificial light.

A time when the cures for our illnesses was found in plants instead of the pharmaceuticals we use today.

A time when God was at the forefront rather than science.

How Much is Enough?

Our appetites extend beyond food. When it comes to money, are we content with what is enough or do we want more? The same with our houses, cars, and gadgets. Seneca answered the question to what the proper limits to one’s wealth by stating, “First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.”

The Builder of the universe, who laid down for us the laws of life, provided that we should exist in well-being, but not in luxury.

Seneca, Letter 119: On Nature as Our Best Provider

Is our planet and our bodies beyond saving? No. Not if we start correcting our course. Saving the planet will be a collective effort most likely not seen in for generations. But for our bodies, we can begin today. We can make better choices. We can establish the proper limits going back to what we need and limiting what we want.


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Emperor’s Log #18 Purpose, People, and Obstacles

Our job

What is my purpose on this earth? When I think about it, I am reminded of Henry Ford’s definition of success: to do more for the world than the world does for you. If I take these words to heart, then my purpose is to leave the earth a little better than when I came into it. This could be the whole world, my community, or my family. How large I choose to make my scope will determine how valuable I am to the world.

This has not always been my belief. As a young adult, I lived solely for myself. My selfish intentions were my priority. Rather than a contributor, I was a consumer only concerned with obtaining my base desires. I was only a small speck in the universe. A little dot with hardly an effect on the other dots.

But then things changed. The first catalyst was marriage. I had to consider somebody else. The transition was not easy for I was still a very selfish boy. But in time, I learned the hard truth that if I only pursued my own interests, my relationship with my wife would not last. Therefore, I changed. Just a small bit, but still a change.

I went from a dot to a segment interacting with another dot. My universe doubled from its previous state.

Δ

Then came fatherhood. My paradigm shifted yet again. The segment became a triangle. My universe expanded. My interests became even less selfish. Now, I was tasked with expanding each leg, tasked with more than developing my own point but the other two points. How can this triangle fit into the puzzle of the universe? How can it grow, be dynamic, and robust? Someday, my son will go off and find his own geometry in this life. What can I do to influence the pattern?

When it comes down to it, our job in life is people. It is to connect the dots and strengthen each segment. This is our purpose. How many connections can we make? How can we improve the dots around us, so the segments are strengthened? How can our own dots be made more desirable to connect with others?

All We Can Do Is Try

In peer-to-peer relationships, all we can do is try. We can try to make stronger connections, improve others, and ourselves, but even our best intentions are not always well-received. We cannot make others improve or have strong connections with us. The simple fact is that not everyone wants to same things as we do. Some relationships cannot be strengthened. Some dots cannot be connected.

Should this trouble us? Indeed not! Once again, all we can do is try. We can want the best, intend the best, but we cannot impose our will upon others.

Then what should we do? Should we give up? Of course not! Maybe it is a sign that our approach is not the best one. Maybe we should try a different tactic. A teacher should not give up on a student who does not understand the content. Instead, the teacher should leave behind the cookie-cutter approach and implement a different method. This will require creativity but will also benefit both the teacher and the student.

What Stands in the Way Becomes the Way

Our path is not always straight. It is not always sunny days and pleasant breezes. We are often met with obstacles that have the power to stop us dead in our tracks.  We could give up. We could tell ourselves that what we have chosen is too difficult, and it would be better to not even attempt to proceed.

Not all obstacles can be attacked in the same way. Like the teacher and the student, some obstacles require different approaches. For the obstacles that stand in our way, we must start with the logical and see if it works. Often, this requires many attempts, many failures, and many trips back to the drawing board. But no matter how many setbacks, we cannot give up. We must remember that everything we want lies on the other side. We must attack and overcome that which stands in the way.

In a sense, people are our proper occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them. But when they obstruct our proper tasks, they become irrelevant to us—like sun, wind, animals. Our actions may be impeded by them, but there can be no impeding our intentions or our dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.20

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Examining Epictetus #18: Winter Training

Dachau, Germany. It was a hot July day with the temperature in the middle nineties. I spent the morning touring the concentration camp. From there, I took a train to the town of Dachau to run a 10k race. I was dehydrated and nursing a strained calf muscle. Therefore, it was one the hardest races I have ever run.

After the race, I took the train back to Munich. On the ride, I enjoyed a conversation  with another runner. We spoke of the running scene in Germany and soon our conversation turned to winter running. Training in the winter plays an integral role in the runner’s year. As I listened, I thought of the mild winters in Western North Carolina where temperatures rarely go below the twenties. The thought of running in a German winter was less than appealing.

Six months later, I got a first-hand experience of a Bavarian winter. The temperature hovered near zero, snow covered the ground creating hazardous footing, and a brisk wind blew down the River Isar. The act of running suddenly became arduous. I had to wear more clothes, spend more time warming up, and even more time convincing myself to walk out the door and into the sunless afternoon. As I ran, I remembered the conversation on the train. If I wanted to improve my summer running, then the winter is where I would separate myself from the runner I used to be.

We must endure a winter training, and can’t be dashing into situations for which we aren’t yet prepared.

Discourses 1.2.32

It is in the winter where progress is made. It is the time to prepare for the upcoming season. Everything is more difficult. Progress is exceedingly slow. Yet, here is where courage is developed, discipline is solidified, and weakness is pushed away. To find success in the summer, one must train in the winter.

‘But if we are endowed by nature with the potential for greatness, why do only some of us achieve it?’ Well, do all horses become stallions? Are all dogs greyhounds?

Discourses 1.2.34

We all have the potential for greatness. But as Epictetus states, not all of us will achieve it. Only a few will be a Roger Bannister running a mile in under four minutes, a Michael Jordan dominating the court, or a Michael Phelps swimming laps around the competition. So many of us dream of greatness, yet so few of us will ever get there. As frustrating as it is, this is reality. Should it be a deterrent, knowing the odds are not in our favor?

In short, we do not abandon any discipline, for despair of ever being the best in it.

Discourses 1.2.37

We may never become the best, but we can become good. We can find success in any endeavor we undertake if we are willing to do the work. This should be enough reason even if we never reach an elite level.

Right now, at this moment, I am in the winter of my life. It is cold, dark, and often lonely. Frustration is knocking at the door hoping to bring the cold inside. But this is the time when I am also finding out who I really am and who I will become in the future. Someday, the season may change. I may find myself coming into my summer where things become easier. However, I cannot look at someday. Today is where my focus needs to be. It is winter, and I must train.


Words in italics from Discourses 1.2 by Epictetus

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Contemplating Seneca #24: Wisdom for Happiness

It is clear to you, I am sure, Lucilius, that no man can live a happy life, or even a supportable life, without the study of wisdom; you know also that a happy life is reached when our wisdom is brought to completion, but that life is at least endurable even when our wisdom is only begun.

A happy life. Seneca said it is only possible for the person who studies wisdom. Why is that? Wisdom may not make a person perfect, but it is the pinnacle at the top of the mountain. To study wisdom is to climb the mountain. And as it increases over time, the student learns to avoid foolish mistakes in both words and deeds.

Solomon also said the one who finds wisdom is happy, that her profits are greater than monetary wealth (Proverbs 3:13-15). Money comes and goes, but wisdom, once attained, doesn’t flee. It doesn’t fluctuate based on speculation, inflation, or corruption.

The acquisition of wisdom is a journey that improves and makes life endurable.

This idea, however, clear though it is, must be strengthened and implanted more deeply by daily reflection; it is more important for you to keep the resolutions you have already made than to go on and make noble ones. You must persevere, must develop new strength by continuous study, until that which is only a good inclination becomes a good settled purpose.

Daily reflection. One must take the time to measure progress. The most effective way is to do it daily. Is there a better way to do this self-examination than by journaling?

One of my favorite podcasts is Ben Greenfield Fitness, one of the best shows to learn about human optimization, ancestral living, and biohacking. Check out step #3 from Ben’s evening journaling practice.

As you breathe, for anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes, begin to visualize your day. During this time, I recommend you replay your entire day in your mind like a movie, watching yourself in the third person and identifying what you have done well, what you could have done better, and where you felt most self-actualized and connected to your purpose statement. Watching the character of yourself in your mind, in the third person, ask yourself what you aren’t rooting for the character to do, or wishing they’d done differently, or where they failed and learned. Ask yourself what you are proud of that character doing and how you really see them acting their best. Finally, ask yourself where that person seemed most “in the flow” and doing exactly what seems to be the very reason they are in the movie in the first place. As you play the movie in your mind, stop when necessary and write down in the journal what you have done well, what you could have done better, and when or where you lived your life’s purpose.

Sabbath Ramblings: What My Morning Journaling Practice Looks Like (& How I Combine Breathwork, Visualization, Tapping, Prayer, Gratitude, Service, Self-Examination & Purpose). -Ben Greenfield

Examine yourself; scrutinize and observe yourself in divers ways; but mark, before all else, whether it is in philosophy or merely in life itself that you have made progress.

When I first began journaling, I would write down the events of the day. It was a non-value-added list of bullet points. After a while, I became bored with it as I was not reflecting on a deeper level. Now I try to look at the day from multiple angles. How did I perceive myself in those actions? How did others possibly perceive my actions? What actions brought my life closer to my goals in life? What did I do to not only improve my life but the lives of those around me? What were my good deeds and how can I improve on my bad ones?

Philosophy is no trick to catch the public; it is not devised for show. It is a matter, not of words, but of facts. It is not pursued in order that the day may yield some amusement before it is spent, or that our leisure may be relieved of a tedium that irks us. It moulds and constructs the soul; it orders our life, guides our conduct, shows us what we should do and what we should leave undone; it sits at the helm and directs our course as we waver amid uncertainties. Without it, no one can live fearlessly or in peace of mind.

The purpose of philosophy. It is the user’s manual on how we should live. Nobody cares whether I memorized the lawn mower’s user manual. But if it is their grass that I am cutting, they do care whether I can operate the mower. The same with philosophy. To quote others and study for the sake of knowledge only does no good. Henry David Thoreau said, “There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers.” I must do more than just study philosophy, I must practice it. I must be a philosopher.

Countless things that happen every hour call for advice; and such advice is to be sought in philosophy.

Wisdom leads to making good choices. It leads to a happy life. Through daily reflection we can refine our choices in the hopes of preventing the bad ones. Those bad choices are available to us constantly. How do prevent them? We turn to our user’s manual. We turn to philosophy.

Words in italics from Seneca’s 16th Letter to Lucilius: On Philosophy, the Guide of Life.


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Emperor’s Log #16: Love Your Nature

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work -as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for -the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?

The alarm goes off at 4 a.m. If I am lucky, I got over six hours of sleep. The quality of the sleep is directly related to how well I spent the previous day. This morning, as is with every morning, is begun with a choice: I could get up, or I could sleep another hour. Granted, that hour would be fitful, and at best, would result in only a few minutes of light sleep. Even with the realization of these minimal benefits, I must consider how soft the bed is, how warm it is under the covers, and how good it feels to remain horizontal. To lie in bed for another hour does have its consequences. I set my alarm for a reason. Not getting out of bed would mean I miss my morning workout, skip my meditation and reading, and negatively impact the quality of my writing. Is it worth it?

-But it’s nicer here….

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

What is my nature? I love how Aurelius tells us to look at the other creatures on this planet and observe how they go about their natural business.

The ant starts the day early. She has a mission to find food and bring it back to the colony. This happens in the warmer months so that the colony can survive during the winter. The ant is always busy. Being busy for the sake of being busy is nothing to brag about. But the ant, she is busy with a purpose. She is doing what is in her nature. I’m reminded of these words from Solomon: “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” -Proverbs 6:6-8

I used to be that sluggard. Oh, I wanted to be more active, but it was “nice” being lazy. I didn’t have a mission, and I didn’t even know where to go to find one. There was no purpose to my life. How much did I miss out on due to this lifestyle? Who knows! I thought I had an infinite amount of time, and I could always be more productive the next day.

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that -as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.

Nature set a limit on how long to stay in bed, on how long to wait around before getting to work as a human being. We produce melatonin at night to help us sleep. Our cortisol levels are elevated in the morning signaling us to get moving. We are governed by our biology which has been optimized through the ages thanks to our ancestors. We are highly evolved, functioning machines. The only thing that can override these natural processes is our minds.

The alarm that tells me to get up in the morning was created by intelligent beings. And though they had the best intentions, the alarm has a built-in flaw. There is a little button on it called the snooze, which can be pressed as many times as the one in bed wants to press it.

When I went to bed the night before, I gave myself a limit on how long to sleep. I set my wake-up time based on that limit. Going over the limit puts my plans for the day in jeopardy. These plans are important to me. It is my work, what I was called to do as a human.

You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.

This is about love! Once you have found your calling in life, then you have no choice but to follow it. Pablo Picasso created over 140,000 works of art in his lifetime. Mozart composed over 600 pieces. Isaac Asimov, not even the most prolific writer, wrote over 500 novels. They loved what they did. They were fueled by their passion. They lived according to their nature.

I know I squandered much of my early years. The past cannot be changed, yet the future still holds untold possibilities. If I don’t want to repeat the errors of my youth, then I must see to the business of the day. No snooze, only purpose. It is time to get up and practice my art.


Italicized words by Marcus Aurelius, Mediations 5:1

Feature photo by Maria Ziegler on Unsplash

Examining Epictetus #40: This Body Does Not Belong to You

The first inspection on the house I was going to rent went well. There were only a few minor issues with the property, and those were all well-documented. Over the course of the next year, I took care of it like I owned it. After all, this was my home. When the rental agreement expired, we conducted a final inspection. I turned in the keys and moved on with my life.

When I was conceived by my parents, I moved into my new body. Since then, I have tried my best to take care of it, but in truth, I will one day return it to the ground from whence it came. As long as I am in my body, it is the home of my soul and spirit. I do not own this body. Instead, I am just borrowing it on a long-term lease.

Well, what did Zeus say? ‘Epictetus, if it were possible, I would have made your little body and possessions both free and unrestricted. As it is, though, make no mistake: this body does not belong to you, it is only cunningly constructed.’

Discourses 1:1.10-11

How profound are these words! We are only clay in a body that doesn’t belong to us. If Nature or the Earth is truly our Mother, then we must give back to her the bodies we have borrowed. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.

What should we do then? Make the best use of what is in our power, and treat the rest in accordance with its nature. And what is its nature? However God decides.

Discourses 1:1.17

This body that I am renting, what should I do with it? It may not belong to me, but it is my home. Would I let it fall into disrepair because it is only a rental? Of course not! For if my mind and soul are trapped in a toxic environment and are unable to operate in its optimal state, what kind of condition will they be in when they move on and go to their next existence? Can a dull me expect to shine in my next incarnation if it did not have its proper training?

What should we have ready at hand in a situation like this? The knowledge of what is mine and what is not mine, what I can and cannot do.

Discourses 1:1.21

This is our situation. This is our knowledge. We are only here temporarily. In time, we must all die. None shall escape. Unable to change this situation, how will I expire? Will I mourn and bewail the inevitable, or will I face it bravely? Will I fight to stay trapped in a corporeal state, which is destined to break down and decay in its attempt to be reunited with the earth? Doing so will only delay the elevation of this spirit to a higher plane.

I must do what is in my power and let go of the things that are not.

That’s the kind of attitude you need to cultivate if you would be a philosopher, the sort of sentiments you should write down every day and put in practice.

Discourses 1:1.25

A philosopher’s goal is to find the truth, to study it, and then learn how to operate within its parameters. This is my goal. I never dreamed I would be a philosopher. And yet, here I am, a mere student longing to understand.


Quotes from Epictetus’ Discourses Book 1, Chapter 1.

Feature photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

Contemplating Seneca #100: Pick One

What are some ways one can avoid poverty?

  • Stay out of debt
  • Spend less than what was made
  • Have multiple streams of income
  • Draw passive income from investments
  • Work hard and work smart
  • Become a person of value offering something the world wants

There are many ways to avoid poverty. Does that guarantee people from ever experiencing it? No, but considering the ways to avoid it and putting those ways into action can reduce one’s chances of poverty.

How about death? What can we do to protect ourselves from it?

This is an interesting question. We know the man with the sickle is going to reap his harvest. No one escapes death, but how many of us will die long before we ever take our last breath?

Here are one’s best protection against dying before one’s soul truly departs from the body:

  • Exercise
  • Sun
  • Reduction of bad stress
  • Consumption of real food
  • Mental resilience
  • Emotional control
  • Growing the heart. Not the ticker that is a part of the strong, healthy body one is creating, but the one known as the soul. This can be achieved by practicing bravery and kindness.

Outside of poverty and death, there are other misfortunes that can cross our lives. Some in and some out of our control. How do we deal with relationships gone wrong, bad luck, bad draws, and injustice? We must find the things in our control and work on them. And for the ones outside of our control? We must learn to navigate those waters as well and work around them the best we can.

Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes, as well as after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day. -Seneca

There is so much we must do to fortify ourselves against the hardships of life. We don’t have to solve them all today. But for true peace of mind, we must figure out what they are.

Today, I am going to take a moment and think about this. When I have gathered my list, I am going to pick one and work on it. Just one at a time is enough. Done daily, I may be able build a nearly impregnable fortress.


Feature photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash