In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In Letter 17, he discussed why you should start using philosophy now. Not when you reach an ‘ideal’ level of wealth. Because that day may never come.
Don’t wait until sometime in the future to start practicing philosophy. The temptation is to wait until you are financially secure or have reached a predefined standard of living before you begin. What you’ll find is that seeking ever more riches becomes an end in itself. You’ll never have enough money. You will get wrapped up in the constant pursuit of becoming wealthy. This will mean that you end up never having the time to use philosophy to enrich your life.
Wealth and the illusion of control
This control we think we have over our lives and our destinies … it’s an illusion. Where we think we’re in control but we’re really not. Do we control all the people around us who affect our lives so intimately? Do we control the overwhelming power of nature? There’s so much out of our control that what we think is control is really an illusion. This is why you shouldn’t wait to start practicing philosophy.
I’ll put this another way: image you’re 80 years old and on your death-bed. Look back over your life: would the pursuit of ever more riches hold regrets for you? Would you say that you had spent your time well?
More questions: Were you more or less happy several years ago when you had less? Has a higher level of income or more possessions made you happier?
Lack of wealth is In some respects, not having much money can be liberating. Seek to have enough to have a comfortable life and no more. If you have a minimal amount of material possessions then you’ll likely look after them, and place a higher degree of value on them too. Philosophical reflection offers wealth which isn’t monetary. Philosophical reflection gives you a different type of wealth. Its wealth that comes when you strive for personal excellence. If you think about wealth in these terms then you will be richer than most people.
I’ll sign off by reiterating that it’s the way we think about wealth that’s the problem, not the wealth itself. It we perceive it to be important, more important than striving for personal excellence, then it will be. So, start philosophical reflection today; change the way you think to be a truly rich person.