Author: RicardoGuaderrama

Business advice, Modern problems, philosophy, Stoic advice

The Reaper


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“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca

If, I’d ask you, what would you rather be, wise or stupid? poor or rich? healthy or unhealthy? Easy-going or an asshole? What would you say?

I believe it is pretty straight-forward that we all prefer a good life to a lamenting one, and yet, what keeps us from doing it? Why aren’t we all just doing it?

Ignorance is deadly, it is willful stupidity.

With time, it seems that we are the most ignorant. You cannot grab time, touch it, you cannot put it in your wallet either and I think that’s exactly how we act with it, as if it were free and abundant. It isn’t, time is your single most important resource.

I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response. Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself — as if nothing there is being asked for and nothing given. They are trifling with life’s most precious commodity, being deceived because it is an intangible thing, not open to inspection and therefore reckoned very cheap — in fact, almost without any value.

Seneca

The thought of not having time can make you frantic. Memento Mori, can certainly make you feel manic. It’s like a person yelling: You fool! There is no time! You are going to die! Don’t you bloody care?! Ah! The end is near!.

I know, it feels like that. But it is not. Memento Mori is a stoic mind puzzle you have to go through and understand. When the stoics say that there is not time, they are not claiming something false or unimportant, all the opposite, they are disturbingly right.

But there is no time to be preoccupied about not having time either, there isn’t time even for that. That is the puzzle, and that is the stoic wisdom as well. How to enjoy something that’s not precisely enjoyable? ah, but that choice, remains in our control my friend, wonderfully so.

No activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied … since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply, but rejects everything which is, so to speak, crammed into it. Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man; yet there is nothing which is harder to learn… Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.

Seneca

Things take time, it’s not so easy as to clicking in your phone and getting the rewards of life, instantaneously.

The rewards of life come with hard work, sweat and sometimes tears. And this you know I’m sure.

Anything worthwhile takes time and effort.

The world we live in

There is something wrong with our “social-digital world” and that is that we only see the rewards of life, constantly, daily. You only see the perfect engagement dinner, the trip to the beach, the smiling faces, you just see the rewards and you don’t see the entirety of life. Naturally, you start craving more and more the rewards and wonder, even subconsciously, why you are not living happily all the freaking time.

But you don’t even want this. Trust me, you don’t want the benefits without the work and it’s just terrible to think that the work and the other parts of life aren’t something to be enjoyed and lived fully.

Reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World:

“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.” 
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


Solving the puzzle

The stoic puzzle: there is no time to concern yourself for not having enough time, so live every day as if it were your last.

Hear this.

You harvest what you sow. Is that easy, and this may be one of the most important advice in life.

You don’t see what you sow immediately, it requires time. Therefore, this may get you thinking: isn’t there enough time?! I must harvest whatever there is then!

But no, because by doing this, you’ve missed the point, the pleasure of living is not in the harvest, but in the whole process. It doesn’t really matter if you’re not able to harvest what you plant, but on the process itself of not wasting your life preoccupied for the harvest, but in living it fully, joy and sadness, work and harvest, pleasure and struggle. It is in the entirety of it, and on how awoke you were to see it the entire time.

The decision remains yours, choose wisely.

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” 
― Aldous Huxley, B

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Conquering Fears

Humility


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“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” 
― Ernest Hemingway

I was hiking with one of those crazy people you meet from time to time who happens to be an Iron man, 50 miles trail runner, dad, engineer and luckily, a friend of mine as well. Being interested myself in doing an Iron man I asked him about the costs of it and especially the cost of the bike, which I inferred must be extremely expensive, as well as all the other equipment you need to compete.

He bolted to me saying that he hated the snobbery and glamour around iron man. He told me that he delights himself specially when some aficionado bike snob brags with an air of superiority about the bike he uses for his races and how he pleasantly tells him that he uses just a regular cheap race bike, give some spice to the race.

He told me that you don’t need all these super expensive equipment compete, you certainly don’t need to finish first, you just have to prepare yourself, get the basic equipment and give it a go.

“A great man is always willing to be little.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Later in the day, the chat with my friend reminded me of my aunt (rest in peace) and her lovely, delicious dinners.

You see, in Mexico, cleaning ladies and house personnel are not supposed to eat with the family, it’s just custom. I guess it’s just the same all over but not in my aunt’s house. She specifically told the cleaning lady and any person who happened to be in her house to sat down and eat with everyone else.

Being a little kid, that seemed extremely weird to me because in every other house I ate, no one sat to eat but the family, cleaning ladies or house personnel ate either earlier or later and didn’t interact with the family. In some cases, they were treated, sadly, as inferior.

Inviting someone to your table is non-small matter after all. It is personal shared time, and this is why I like so much the idea of inviting every guest to sit down. It gives every person on the table the opportunity to speak, to discuss and all of these in an environment of inclusion and togetherness.

Differences in opinion may rise, and this precisely is what was great about eating together, it gave everyone the opportunity to express and understand each other, whereas, in other situations, no opportunities for these are given. Uncomfortable conversations and situations happened obviously but this shouldn’t be a reason not to interact, in fact, the more uncomfortable situation we have, the better we do, you are not running away, you are facing reality. Marcus Aurelius had something about this:

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Think about how you treat each person you encounter. It’s just obvious that you are not going to treat everyone the same, but we should definitely treat each other with at least respect and the presupposition that they count with reason and can as well be polite. This assumption is under control.

Now that I’m older, I admire my aunt greatly. A single act of inviting everyone to her table spoke greatly of her character, she was a great woman. Inviting people to her table was one small act amongst many in her life. How you do anything, you do everything.

In your life, where are you leaving people outside? Where are you avoiding the issues that need to be addressed? Where are you being an unhelpful and misunderstanding snob?

At the end of the day, we all are in this together, and just like living in a clean place feels better that living in a dirty one. Healthy relationships feel better than unhealthy ones. Sometimes, your house can be pretty messy and just so, relationships can as well be. To clean them you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and speak up from time to time, don’t let things pass. Remember.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” 
― Rick Warren

Want something else from Stoic Answers? Read: An antidote for the complaint.

Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism. 

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Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.