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.


Feature photo by Dana Luig on Unsplash

Contemplating Seneca #52: Wandering Outdoor Walks

Last week, Alec and I took our first hike in quite some time. As we walked along, I marveled at his enthusiasm and curiosity. Every rock, flower, and tree was the object of his admiration. We crossed streams, traversed logs, and hopped from boulder to boulder. We were out in nature breathing in the fresh air and connecting deeply with the earth. There was no cell phone signal and no technological distractions.

We spend so much time indoors. In the morning, we leave our house, get in our cars, go to school or work, back in our cars, and finish it all up secure in our homes. It is all the trappings of a modern life, yet far removed from the way our ancestors lived.

In Alec’s case, he does the above and then goes to the gym three days a week. How much sunshine and fresh air does he get? Not enough!

We should take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing. -Seneca

I need more time outdoors. Alec does too. This year, I have made a commitment to myself to make a change. I wish it could be every day. But for now, I am going to start on the weekends I don’t have to work. We are going to hike more. We are going to get out in nature, breathe in the fresh air, and nourish our bodies.

Pulliam Creek Trail. Flatrock, NC
Green River Narrows, Flat Rock, NC
Brief summary.

Contemplating Seneca #11: Some Device Against Me

Bad Things Happen -Good.

What is the worst that could have happened? I could have been in the garage when the tree fell? But even that would not have been so bad if my heart was strong enough to bear the fright? No, things could have been much worse. I could be unable to work, paralyzed, lost a loved one, or even dead. None of those things happened. I am in good health. I have breath. I am alive.

A tree fell on my garage and my basement flooded, again. What a week! For a moment, a very brief moment, I felt a little disheartened. Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?

At this moment fate is preparing some device against me? –Seneca

This is life and well, things happen. I cannot bemoan the fact that bad things happen. There is no “woe is me.” The worst did not come about. I can rebuild and prepare the best I can for what fate will bring next. From these experiences, I will grow stronger. I will learn new skills. In fact, these events are really opportunities for growth.

There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul. –Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The philosophy I have studied now has to become a practice. I must follow the example of the Stoics, whose words have become a daily part of my reading. “Control what I can control.” I can’t control nature. I can control my emotions and my perception of the things happening around me. I will find no solace in being frustrated. I will find solace in work, in rebuilding.

 “Let us, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and wait.”

-Orison Swett Marden, Pushing to the Front

I’m reminded of GOOD:

Be Not Deceived

Justice 11/13/2019

A car is a miraculous machine consisting of thousands of intricate parts. If the car is to perform at an optimum level, those parts have to work together. To get it to go, you have to put in the fuel source it requires. Put something else in there and sooner or later, your car will break down.

Your body is built in a similar fashion. Millions of parts working together to make sure you can get where you are going. What does your body need? It needs a natural fuel source. If you put something in it that it was not designed to handle, it will eventually break down and not run at its optimal levels. You may be able to adapt to various, non-natural foods. Some people may be able to respond better than others. But once you identify what works and consume it, your body will be able achieve and maintain peak performance.

There are times we tell ourselves that the fuel we consume is the premium high octane stuff when it really isn’t. It is not the natural foods are bodies have adapted to, but rather it is a low grade version packaged to mimic the real stuff. It might even smell and taste like it, but it is not the same. The nutrients are different. You may tell yourself, “No, no, it’s the same, but your body knows the difference. The fake stuff will never be able to replace the real food. Your natural body was not designed to handle the synthetic. If you keep putting garbage in the tank, your engine might just break down.

Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceive ourselves. –Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I am not promoting what types of food you should eat. Some run on gas, others on diesel. Heck, some people might be able to get by on a blend. But if we tell ourselves that the synthetic is just as good as the natural, we are deceiving ourselves. If we deceive ourselves long enough, our bodies will suffer the effects.

And it is not just in food that we tend to deceive ourselves. We allow outside influences to change the filters through which we view the world. We allow our own biases and beliefs to change our perception of what is real and what is not. We must remove the scales from our eyes and see nature for what it really is and not for what we want it to be. We must learn to see truth.