Self development

Conquering Fears, Modern problems, philosophy, Reflections, Self development

The right way to travel


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I think all of us think from time to time about the wonders of travel, meeting new people, adventures, new places, and different perspectives with which we can live our lives with new eyes. Traveling has a sort of enchantment attached to it. The mysterious allure of meeting someone or somewhere for the first time and not really knowing what to expect has the effect of charming just about anyone.

Interestingly, thinking about the topic today, I stumbled upon Seneca’s letter to Lucilious On travel as a cure for discontent. I had already read it before, but each time I grab the book, new perspectives pop up like newly grown plants. 

Traveling is a topic that has always occupied a place in my mind and I’m sure it’s the same for you. Have I done enough? Where should I go next? 

This is especially true in a world in which you open Instagram and find out that apparently everyone is traveling all the time. Travel has been elevated to a necessary and almost spiritual experience. 

 Here is an excerpt from Seneca about traveling:

“The person you are matters more than the place to which you go; for that reason, we should not make the mind a bondsman to any one place” –Seneca, Letters to Lucilious

His thoughts on traveling are pretty precise, he disregards travel completely as something ultimately necessary to live a complete life.

“I am not born for any one corner of the universe, this whole world is my country” Seneca, Letter to Lucilious

According to Seneca, you cannot use travel as a cure to your soul’s discontent.

The kind of discontent Seneca talks about can be felt when you open Facebook and see someone posing happily on a photo in Bombay or some other exotic place and think to yourself that “if only you were there”, you would finally be able to be happy and content with yourself.

Seneca argues that you could, in fact, go to the place you’ve been dreaming about, but you would still feel the same because the problem is not your lack of experience, but the relationship you currently have with yourself.

No amount of travel in the world will cure that discomfort. A wise man will feel at home wherever he is.

I’m not sure if Seneca knew this himself, but writes with acid humor that preserves all seriousness nonetheless. Superb writer indeed. There comes a point in his letter to Lucilious where he goes as far to claim that a wise man will feel at ease and at home, no matter what, no matter where. Even at “The Forum” he says. Downtown Rome at the time, where it is loud, smelly and full of people, sort of like living in the worst place you can imagine and feeling at home there.

This follows the principle that happiness and a worthy life can never be found outside of oneself, always inside. To think otherwise is to remain a slave to the circumstances or events outside ourselves and our control.

Live with this belief: “I am not born for any one corner of the universe; this whole world is my country.” If you saw this fact clearly, you would not be surprised at getting no benefit from the fresh scenes to which you roam each time through weariness of the old scenes. For the first would have pleased you in each case, had you believed it wholly yours. As it is, however, you are not journeying; you are drifting and being driven, only exchanging one place for another, although that which you seek, — to live well, — is found everywhere. — Seneca, Letters to Lucilious

So I shouldn’t travel then?

If you find yourself asking this question, you haven’t quite grasped it yet.

The wise man prefers to be at peace than at war, but he will endure war nonetheless.

This is not an excuse for not traveling. Traveling, in itself, is an amazing experience that everyone should do at least once in their lives. Anything that exposes you to new perspectives, new ideas, and gratefulness for being alive should be done or at least procured. Nevertheless, not being able to travel at some point in your life is not an excuse not to live and enjoy your life as it is right now.

The thought of “I cannot be happy because I haven’t done this or that yet” is the same excuse, at least in principle, as “I cannot be happy because I don’t possess all the money in the world”. This way of thinking is a never-ending cycle and the problem is the way of thinking itself. 

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” 
Seneca

The joys of traveling will be infinitely more rewarding if you do it with the right disposition so stop drifting and being driven and begin to live where you are now, home. 

A great complement to this read: Sound Minded

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Modern problems, philosophy, Psychology, Self development

Two ways of living


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“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Living for today or living for tomorrow. Plain and simple. This is, at the core, a matter of courage, the courage to live and embrace life as it is or the lack of courage and hiding in a “better tomorrow” or “better times”. Bear with me.

Imagine a mighty mountain, a tall, white and insultingly big one staring right at you, daringly, from the distance, you can almost hear it saying: “Come and try if you dare”.

What is the goal of climbing a mountain? Getting to the top?

The top is where the glory is right?

No, no, no, no No! If you’ve ever climbed a mountain before and spent 12 gruesome hours in altitude, suffering through the cold cutting your face like little knives in the night and still keep going further even though the altitude is making you want to vomit just to get to the bloody top?

Hell no. Getting to the top is just a bonus, once you get there, you experience a blissful high and sense of achievement for about………. 20 minutes and then you have to get down, even more tired and suffer all the way back down, because you know, the summit is kinda like the middle of the trek. Then you get back on the car, open a beer and begin thinking how much you liked all that good suffering. Henry David Thoreau has a great quote for this feeling.

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The reasoning here is that the goal was never the top, but the process. What happened inside of you as you got there. Your will to push, your will to bear, your decision to smile in front of all that tiredness, in front of your weary body, in front of adversity itself. The more adversity, the bigger your smile, the bigger the glory. Stoic Antifragility itself.

“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it — all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity — , but to love it…” 
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Living for today or living for tomorrow. Back on it.

Living for tomorrow equals not living in the present. Equals living in expectancy of something to happen to start living at all. This is what’s fashionable in the 21st century. When I marry, I’ll be happy. When I afford my dream wedding then I’ll be happy. Once I finally buy that black BMW then I’ll be able to prove who I really am! When I know how to do this or that or have that job then my life will be so much better.

“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” 
― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

The mountain is just an allegory for everything else. It’s the Sisyphean myth.

When I get to the top, then I’ll be happy.

Now, if you follow this line of reasoning. Living for tomorrow means that getting to point a to point b is what will make you happy. So, if this is the case, then shouldn’t you do everything in your power to get to point B as fast and efficiently as possible.

If this is the case you should just take a damn helicopter and get to the summit. If that’s what’ll make you happy. But it won’t, and you very well know will not.

“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.” 
― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

This will simply not do because you don’t really want “just getting to the top”. What you want is to be the badass who got at the top.

Being, stick this word into your head.

What you truly want is to be “the new wearer of clothes”, you don’t really want just the “clothes”.

Ironically.

You can do this right now. But it is painful, it is painful because just like with climbing the mountain you have to face all its adversities, and your own shortcoming, just so it is in life and anything you want. Pain and adversity give human life meaning. They make your challenges real, they are the price you have to pay for greatness. It’s not all pain and adversity, obviously, it depends on the lenses through which you look at them. Think about exercise, your legs hurt after you are done, but they hurt in a good way. This is what you want to achieve.

Living for the now.

When you think about living in the present moment, you might think: What about my goals, must I shun them away? Just concentrate deeply on what I’m doing at every moment?

No. When you climb a mountain, you have a goal, getting to the top, but that goal is just there to give you a sense of direction of where you want to go.

One thing is to set goals and then doing what is needed and another very different is to daydream about something being done. Life is now.

“First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.” 
― Epictetus

If you live for today, you live for what is now, you are not waiting for something to happen, you make things happen. You don’t fantasize about the time when something’s done, you are too busy being and doing whatever it is you want to do today.

Life itself becomes a Dance, a Journey.

Every moment of the trip or the dance is an end in itself. Every step you take, every pain you endure, everything becomes an end in itself. Everything welcomes you to live now and not tomorrow.

Life becomes a piece of art, a piece of music, a dance. The end of dancing is not getting somewhere, it is dancing.

Living in the moment and for the moment gives your life a new perspective, it takes meaning away from that uncertain future and gives it to the moment which is in your hands right now, under your control.

What are you going to do with it?

A great complement to this read: Stoicism and Power

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

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