Letter No. 5 -- Terrible.

This post continues my experiment of applying ancient wisdom to the present day experience of people facing divorce in Minnesota.

The wisdom comes from Seneca (an old Roman dude) who wrote a series of letters about the meaning of life to his friend, Lucilius. Whether Seneca actually sent the letters, or just compiled them as a book, doesn't matter to me because I've found his advice as sound today as it was in 65 A.D.

All the letters can be downloaded (for free) courtesy of Tim Ferriss. Click (here) for his website. He's got lots of other amazing stuff is there too. I highly recommend his book, Tools of Titans, which is worth the cost.

Today's letter is No. 5. It's titled On the Philosopher's Mean.

To be blunt, this letter sucks. You'd be better off watching a Thomas the Train rerun than wasting your time on it.

Seneca drones on for paragraph after paragraph about how Lucilius shouldn't look too good or too bad. Don't be too rich or too poor. Instead, live a plain life.

Because I'm trying hard not to be a quitter anymore, I did read to the end of the letter. And I'm happy to report Seneca does offer something I can share.

He tells Lucilius that the best way to eliminate fears is to get rid of desire. The two are linked together like a "chain [that] fastens the prisoner and the soldier who guards him."

How so?

Because both fear and desire "belong to . . . a mind that is . . . looking forward to the future. In so doing, we don't "adapt ourselves to the present, but send our thoughts a long way ahead."

He closes by explaining that animals avoid the dangers they see and then forget about them. But not us. We humans continue to worry about both the perceived future dangers and our past shortcomings.

The solution: Focus on the present, which "can make no man wretched."

How does this apply to a present day divorce in Minnesota?

Almost everyone I meet (me included) is stuck in either the future or the past. Or both. It clouds their decision-making.

Not many people appreciate that things are okay right now. Few of the dangers they fear are actually happening. And many never will.

It reminds me of the old quote sometimes attributed to Mark Twain: "I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."

Fix this problem now! Focus on the present moment. What needs to happen today to make it a good day? What are the one or two things that if you did today, you'd be proud of yourself?

Do those things. Stop doing the things that don't matter. Your life won't fall apart. Neither will the rest of the world.

Stay strong,

 
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