SLRP: XIII. On Groundless Fears (Part 1: 1 – 9)

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Seneca,

If I may quote from today’s letter:

“We do not put to the test those things which cause our fear; we do not examine into them; we blench and retreat just like soldiers who are forced to abandon their camp because of a dust-cloud raised by stampeding cattle, or are thrown into a panic by the spreading of some unauthenticated rumour.”

It seems to be very hard to actually be in the present.  Will you take for granted that our ruling faculty is presented with impressions from the mind as well as from the sense organs?  That memory, and thought are given up to us, similarly to the sights and sounds of the world?  The mind seems to constantly scan forward and back in time.  Forward, looking for problems, and backward looking for past solutions.

From an evolutionary standpoint, that makes a tremendous amount of sense.  Yet, we find ourselves then pinned down by it, constantly planning and plotting for the future, and meditating and masticating the joys and pains of the past.  We chew them so much, they’ve taken on a bitter taste, it seems.

We lament, for actions taken poorly, and for opportunities missed.  For the hurts we thoughtlessly, and sometimes intentionally, have given to others.  For the hurts and scars we ourselves bear.

But other than in memory, or the sting of it, these things do not exist.  We cannot catch them in our teeth.  We can recall them, but then the judgment is ours once again.

Just another impression.

So, we then must ask, how do we weigh it?  Do we assent to the hurt, or the joy?  Are we made better, more virtuous by it?  Or is it merely another rumor from the street?

Whispers of a forgotten pain.  Hints of previous pleasures.

Farewell.


Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

One thought on “SLRP: XIII. On Groundless Fears (Part 1: 1 – 9)

  1. I read The Red Pill often (in fact it’s how I found Stoicism). Today I read a post on instant gratification, and it maintained that we seek instant gratification as a way to distract us from the harsh realities and challenges of life. I think this is exactly what Seneca so eloquently describes in the excerpt you’ve quoted.

    It is no doubt that we benefit from the lessons of the past. When people talk about living in the present, I’m not so sure what they mean. Do they mean stop living in your head? Correct me if I’m wrong, but probably.

    If that’s the case, “living in the now” simply means subjugating the anxieties of the future, and understanding the lessons of past failures and missed opportunities so that the now can be used to better oneself.

    I don’t think “living in the now” is that hard to do. All it requires is to get out of the habit of living in your head. Quickly does time past when we talk to ourselves. Slowly does time past when we observe and marvel at the world.

    So let us internalize the lessons of the past, forget the anxieties of the future, and observe the beauties that surround us.

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