As humans, we dream. Of peace, a better future, success and happiness. So often, we associate our dreams with new beginnings, in new and exotic places. Sometimes the efforts we make to change our location pays off; then we realize that humanity is same everywhere and that nothing has really changed despite our change of location. The only true change that matters is that which can occur in ourselves, and our souls; yet it’s the one we seldom, if ever, think about, or make the effort.
Seneca in one of his letters, discussed this beautifully and there is nothing to add, so today I am only sharing some excerpts for your reflection:
“Do you suppose that you alone have had this experience? Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate. Though you may cross vast spaces of sea, and though, as our Vergil remarks:
Lands and cities are left astern
your faults will follow you whithersoever you travel. Socrates made the same remark to one who complained; he said: “Why do you wonder that globe-trotting does not help you, seeing that you always take yourself with you? The reason which set you wandering is ever at your heels.” What pleasure is there in seeing new lands? Or in surveying cities and spots of interest? All your bustle is useless. Do you ask why such flight does not help you? It is because you flee along with yourself. You must lay aside the burdens of the mind; until you do this, no place will satisfy you…
…. You wander hither and yon, to rid yourself of the burden that rests upon you, though it becomes more troublesome by reason of your very restlessness, just as in a ship the cargo when stationary makes no trouble, but when it shifts to this side or that, it causes the vessel to heel more quickly in the direction where it has settled. Anything you do tells against you, and you hurt yourself by your very unrest; for you are shaking up a sick man….
… The person you are matters more than the place to which you go; for that reason we should not make the mind a bondsman to any one place. Live in this belief: “I am not born for any one corner of the universe; this whole world is my country.”…
… As it is, however, you are not journeying; you are drifting and being driven, only exchanging one place for another, although that which you seek, –to live well, –is found everywhere….
… It is time to stop, but not before I have paid duty. “The knowledge of sin is the beginning of salvation.” This saying of Epicurus seems to me to be a noble one. For he who does not know that he has sinned does not desire correction; you must discover yourself in the wrong before you can reform yourself. Some boast of their faults. Do you think that the man has any thought of mending his ways who counts over his vices as if they were virtues? Therefore, as far as possible, prove yourself guilty, hunt up charges against yourself; play the part, first of accuser, then of judge, last of intercessor. At times be harsh with yourself. Farewell.”
Excerpts from Lucius Annaeus Seneca – Letters from a Stoic (Translated by Richard Mott Gummere)
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
Everything is the same in the final analysis. Humans are the same. Some traits are simply more expressed in some climes than others. Some are gentle, some are rough; but all are same!
Deep down most critical thinkers have wondered why at all they have lived. A sublime evaluation however can not leave them without gratitude for the time we enjoy. This is tricky because one could ask, what the significance of the time we enjoyed is; especially considering the ups and downs.
Looking around and you will realize how insignificant one is in the big scheme of things; all you see will pass away and new generations will take over that would have no clue about you. This is both mind blowing and reassuring.
Enjoy now. Release the pain and worries! Whatever your location; there’s so much to admire and be grateful for. Enjoy!
The Amateur Philosopher