Letters No. 8 and 9

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.

There is no post for Letter No. 8. To be blunt, it's worthless. The focus is on whether philosophers should seclude themselves. If you must know the answer, you'll need to read it yourself. Although, you probably could guess it.

Today's letter is No. 9. It's titled On Philosophy and Friendship.

The letter starts with Seneca answering a concern Lucilius expressed about whether wise men who are self-sufficient need friends. Apparently, one of Seneca's critics is hammering him on the topic, saying Seneca's theories make friends pointless.

Seneca responds by telling Lucilius that the critic doesn't understand what it means to be a self-sufficient person. He explains that a self-sufficient person is one who "feels his troubles, but overcomes them." A wise man is "in want of nothing, and yet needs many things."

At first, I found this hard to understand. But then Seneca explains that a "want" implies something is needed and that a wise man needs nothing beyond that which he already possesses.

Although it is normal for a wise man to "crave" friendships, he doesn't need them. This is important because it allows a self-sufficient person to form the right type of friendships (ones where he can focus on helping others) while still remaining intact if the friendship dissolves.

Seneca ends the letter by reinforcing that being self-sufficient means being happy with oneself, regardless of what happens in the outside world. He quotes another philosopher as saying: “Whoever does not regard what he has as most ample wealth, is unhappy, though he be master of the whole world.”

How does this apply to a Minnesota divorce in 2018?

To me, it means that all of us need to find a way to be happy (and content) with who and where we are in life.

We can't let our happiness depend on our spouse's opinions or behaviors. We shouldn't let it depend on the behavior of bosses or friends either.

Like Seneca says, we should have friends, but not need them to make ourselves whole. Friends are people we want to help. To serve. Not the other way around.

The idea of self-sufficiency runs through a lot of Seneca's letters. It sounds simple, but I don't think I've ever seen it in real life. Certainly not from me. I'm hardly ever comfortable in my own skin.

Can you imagine how powerful a person would be if they were self-sufficient?

Life could bounce them up and down like a ping pong ball, yet not touch who they were inside. They could be rich or poor, healthy or sick, married or divorced, and still they would be enough for themselves.

I don't believe such a person would approach divorce in a caviar way. My guess is they'd be saddened by the loss of family, friends, and relationship. But it wouldn't rock them. Not to the core.

They'd pick up, carry on, determined to make new friends and help other people. Because they know that there is nothing anyone can take from them that they really need.

Stay strong,

Rob