Monday, April 25, 2022

Be present

"Do you ever think about what people are going to say after you die? Maybe you think about this a lot—that’s why you work so hard, why you chase success. Because you want a legacy.

The truth is, no matter what you accomplish or who you are, the conversation is mostly going to go like this: “Did you hear that _______ died?” “No,” they’ll say. “How?!” And then they’ll tell them...and that will be it. Because that’s how it goes. Always has, always will.

Your whole life, your whole struggle, the most painful thing you and your family will experience will ultimately be reduced to a trivial exchange between acquaintances. If you happen to go out in some unusual way—a freak accident, sitting on the toilet, whatever—they may even laugh! What can you do about it? Nothing.

The point of this message is to remind you of a critical virtue: Humility. You are not immortal. You are not special. You will not be around to relish your legacy. You will not be able to hang onto your grudges or your possessions. So just let go. Be present. Be good because it’s a good way to be. And be prepared for what happens to all of us, the best and the worst of us."

from the daily stoic

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Chose not to live lonely or narrowly

Of the Stoics, Seneca seems like the one who had the most fun. He’s the one who it’s easiest to picture spending time with friends or mingling at a dinner party (in fact, he was known for his legendary parties with hundreds of guests). Whereas almost all of Marcus’s writing is private and solitary, and Epictetus’s comes to us in the form of lecture notes from his students, a sizable chunk of what survives of Seneca are the letters he wrote to his dear friend Lucilius.

We don’t know too much about Lucilius, except that he was a governor of Sicily and possibly also a writer. Nor do we know much about who the guests at Seneca’s parties were. But from what we do know, we can gather Seneca was social and had a large circle of friends and acquaintances with whom he spent a lot of time.

Which begs the question: How did he choose these friends? We can hope—and expect—that Seneca’s many friendships adhered to the rule he put down to Lucilius in one of those famous letters:

“Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve.”

It’s an impossible thing to know really—even for ourselves—how we came to know most of the people in our lives. But how they stayed in our lives? How our acquaintances evolved into friendships, that should be easier to figure out. And Seneca’s rule is a wonderful guide, because what he’s describing is what friendship is about. A process of mutual improvement, benefit and enjoyment.

We become like the people we spend the most time with…so we should choose wisely. And we should choose widely, because life is too short to live lonely or narrowly.