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 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 when he wrote it 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 there too. I highly recommend his book, Tools of Titans, which is worth the cost.
Today's letter is No. 7. It's titled On Crowds.
In it, Seneca tells Lucilius that he must avoid crowds because no one ever returns home the same person. Others will change you, he says. Even a single exposure can disrupt one's mind.
For example, eating with a rich person will make you jealous. Drinking with a slanderous one will loosen your tongue, and lounging with a lazy friend robs you of spirit.
Crowds force you to either "imitate or loathe the world," neither of which is right. Instead, Seneca urges Lucilius to, "Associate with those who will make a better man of you."
He ends by offering Lucilius this bit of advice: "Many men praise you but have you any reason for being pleased with yourself, if you are a person whom the many can understand? Your good qualities should face inwards."
How does this apply to a Minnesota Divorce in 2018?
Seneca's advice reminds me of what my mother used to say about a boy in my grade. The boy's parents were extremely rich. I envied his ability to watch rated R movies and to grab a soda at will from a special refrigerator in his garage.
My mother worried that the boy was a bad influence. I couldn't see how that possible. But now, as an adult, I understand what she meant.
How many of the people you associate with bring you down? How many make you a better person?
Much of the "helpful" advice I hear offered to divorcing couples isn't helpful to them at all. How does a co-worker announcing, "It didn't happen that way in my case" or "You need to fight that bastard" make things better for you?
A wise therapist once told me that the fastest way to feel better is to stop talking about your problems all the time.
I think Seneca was right. We should be very careful about whom we associate with because we end-up being twins.