I recently purchased a copy of Letters From A Stoic by Seneca. Amazed that I haven't read it before now, I dove straight in. It's simply amazing that these words were written over 2000 years ago, the insights, the prose, the way Man's trials and tribulations don't seem to change, no matter how much the world around Him changes, blows my mind.
As always, all that I read is taken with a pinch of salt. It must be. There's no way you can take all that is read as gospel, for doing so creates an air of giddy excitement that belongs to a novice. This is not saying that it is wrong to be excited by words written on paper, for I am truly excited by the words I have read. I try to apply the guiding philosophy of "trust but verify" - read other sources of contradicting views of the author, ask questions like - who really was Seneca? It's all very easy to immediately fall into the words head-over-heels, but a certain amount of restraint is called for in verifying these written letters. Thankfully this translation of Seneca's Letters includes a prologue by Robin Campbell, which builds out this point exactly. It allows you to arm yourself with the knowledge that is most often overlooked by readers of classical texts, who the Hell was the author? Well, I'll leave that for you to decide. For it is entirely a subjective view, and projecting my view onto you would not be effective, or at all needed. We all have our own Directing mind, let's use it.
I've read many of the Letters, but there is one I cannot seem to shake from my thoughts. In my eyes, there is nothing that rings truer, especially in today's modern society of travelling, entertainment, and a distinct lack of investing in one's mind. The premise of the point is simple - "Where you arrive does not matter so much as to what sort of person you are when you arrive there".
How many times have you heard a person state "I cannot WAIT for my holiday", the underlying truth to their statement being that it will somehow "fix" them, or make their world okay again. But it won't, and it doesn't. The same person will return from a brief respite of their core being to the same feelings of overwhelming anxiety, directionlessness and everything else that they were trying to escape. A change in our physical surrounding can do nothing for these thoughts, we can think that they will, but it's simply not possible.
"Whatever your destination you will be followed by your failings. Here is what Socrates said to someone who was making the same complaint: 'How can you wonder your travels do you no good, when you carry yourself around with you? You are saddled with the very thing that drove you away'
If you have self-deprecating thoughts, negative mindsets, corrosive mannerisms and behaviours, a "spiritual" trip to Bali will not solve them. In order to put these right, you must first acknowledge them. No one is immune from this, we all have negative behaviours, whether they're surface level in our being or buried in the depths of it. It's our job as people who want to be better, not only for ourselves but for the people around us. For what are we truly? Are we selfish beings who only exist to appease our own lives? I don't think so. We're all here together, and as I've stated before "The journey is long", let's ride it together. Let's put ourselves second, or even third. There is time for us to build ourselves, when we are alone in the morning and evening, but who will help others when they are in need of it? Do not wait for others to show kindness, or whatever you wish them to display, offer it first. Be the first to make that step towards a better world, even if your world is the block where you live or a family home. Only then can others lead in your footsteps and take the same stance. Quiet confidence is what is needed.
Cities, woodland, a foreign country, an all-inclusive hotel - these things do nothing for our mind. They can soothe it for a short while, but it does nothing for our lives. It is like applying a plaster when a tourniquet is needed. This can seem like a juxtapositioned argument, I am not saying that being outdoors in the fresh air does no good - it does a world of good and we should all aim to get outside more. But being outside by itself does not address whatever problems we all face. It's what you do whilst outside that matters, staring at your phone in the woods scrolling endlessly through social media will not help. But sitting, thinking, meditating, breathing, working your mind, might.
Think of the amount of time we, as a general population in 2019, spend on building and fortifying our minds. It is minuscule. For the mind is what I believe, is the single most important thing we possess, we spend a staggeringly small amount of time working on it. Imagine if you were to not spend any time building your body, it withers, grows (in an unhealthy manner), and becomes fraught with illness and injury. But we don't allow this to happen, generally, as it is on show - for the whole world to see. I agree building the body is of the utmost importance, but let us put the same focus and energies on building the mind as we do the body. I guarantee our lives will be richer for it.
I do not pass these words as gospel, nor do I pass them on from above a high perch. These are merely the thoughts I have whilst driving, drinking coffee, and thinking with my brain. Writing them down is one of the sanest things a person can do. I urge you all to think thoughts of your own, have arguments, form ideas, build a world for your mind where it is worked. Use your mind for what it is intended, not just to be sold things to by conglomerates.
Head of Waves