“What is more, you may reflect on this thought: No one dies except on his own day. You are throwing away none of your own time; for what you leave behind does not belong to you. Farewell.” Seneca Book II, #49.
“Nor am I so mad as to crave illness; but if I must suffer illness, I shall desire that I may do nothing which shows lack of restraint, and nothing that is unmanly. The conclusion is, not that hardships are desirable, but that virtue is desirable, which enables us patiently to endure hardships.” –Seneca’s letters to Lucillius LXVII (47)
This line goes straight to what is thought of as “stoic” in the neo-modern interpretation, no? Continue reading
“There is an element of self-seeking even in our sorrow.” Seneca’s Epistles
Some might ask me why I spend so much time on such gloomy things: death, disease, loss of a friend, poverty, failure? Well, it is in these times of grief or despair, challenge and trial that we need our philosophy the most. During good times, we hardly look for guidance at all. Everything feels free and good, life just flows before us.
It is during these good times that we should reflect, Continue reading
I do a lot of talking about the present moment here on the site. For good reason: the present moment is where I will find true happiness. It is the only thing that is real; the past is a memory and the future is never assured… Continue reading
“I search myself first, and then the world about me.”–Seneca
Seneca captures so much with these words. Happiness is indeed a state of mind. We expect our happiness to be affected by external factors, and it certainly can. There is no denying that our environment affects our happiness. Meeting someone new, being proposed to for marriage, getting a pay raise, getting together with friends and relatives can all make us very happy, at least for a while. How about these: a successful business venture, getting a new job, completing a project, even winning the lottery? All of these things can affect our view on life and our happiness, too. However, I repeat, none of them bring permanent contentment. That kind of happiness requires introspection, continuous mindfulness and effort.
Certainly we can enjoy the external joys in life, but just like saving for a rainy day we should realize that all of these external things are ephemeral. Their happiness effect will fade eventually. It is during these times of joy that we should build our happiness capital. The perspective that the reflective, philosophical life gives us can help us build this capital. In the end, happiness is an internal function. We choose to be happy or not.
This is very important because not only do those external happiness drivers not always exist, but in fact there will also be many external things that make us unhappy. Do I need to list them? Take all of the things I mentioned above and reverse them. Here we go: losing an old friend, getting a divorce, taking a pay cut, missing your friends and relatives, a failed business venture, being fired, failing to complete a project. Finally, you may have your heart set on winning the lottery, and never win a dime. You could even win and then be poisoned! (click for full story)
Your philosophy is your happiness shock absorber. Your perspective, your equanimity is yours to control. Look within for change, and look within for answers. Seneca is right!