SLRP: LXXXVII. In Favour Of The Simple Life (Part 1: 1-8)



“My false embarrassment about the truth still holds out, you see; and whenever we meet a more sumptuous party I blush in spite of myself – proof that this conduct which I approve and applaud has not yet gained a firm and steadfast dwelling-place within me. So my progress is still insufficient. I have not yet the courage openly to acknowledge my thriftiness. Even yet I am bothered by what other travellers think of me.”

Ah, so my question yesterday is in part answered. Today, self-awareness is so rare as to practically be a superpower, so it does my heart good to see it here.

More and more these days, my mind bends to thoughts as you’ve expressed here. This goes with my confession of yesterday, that my inability… or unwillingness is more apt, to firmly adopt this mode that seems conducive to the good life.  I have more thinking and soul-searching to do here.

I like the idea of the travelling cart, in your case for hire. It’s an appropriate metaphor, I think, for philosophy and life.

You’re used to riding in a fine litter, and now rent the rattle-trap cart of a farmer. In life, our carts may be of one sort or another, they may change. We may start out in the farmer’s cart or the purple and gold bedecked litter. We may end in the same or the opposite. We pass fellow travelers, some heading in the direction we are, some headed elsewhere.
It would be silly to judge the progress of the journey by any other test other than proximity to the destination, but on your road and ours travelers are often more concerned with which kind of carts they see.

A few years ago, I had a nicer car. It was very fancy. It had on it from the previous owner a set of brakes which functioned just fine. The stopped the car, and had a goodly number of thousands of miles of driving left in them. But the squeaked when I slowed. See, the fancy car normally was equipped with a silent, ceramic brake pad. However, the previous owner had replaced these, presumably when they were worn, with a cheaper semi-metallic pad, which while it did a fine job, no matter the conditioning, squeaked when the car braked.

For a while, this bothered me. I was driving this fancy car with squeaky breaks, what would people think? It was a loudish sound, so it’s not like I could pretend other people didn’t notice. And they did. They’d look, make a face, make judgments. It seemed their judgments were about me!

I could have replaced them, covered up this shame with a vanity, paid to have the brakes no longer squeak. But I chose the squeaky but functional brakes as an exercise in Cynic-like shamelessness. Why should I worry about brakes that squeak? “You have brakes which squeak. Anything else? No, nothing else. It is nothing to me.”

This exercise worked, and a short time later, when I was in an accident which totaled the car and I acquired a much less fancy one, I parted with it easier than I might have otherwise.

Pseudo-tangent aside, we have both given up the fancier car(t) for one of utility, and I hope you continue to ride in yours. I think you’ll find it to your benefit. I look forward to the rest of your thoughts on simpler lives next week.


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

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