This week we riff on Seneca’s Letter 47, ‘On Allegiance to Virtue’ – it’s short, but richly rewarding to dig into. It’s about how life can seem like a battle – an unfair one – that we never consciously agreed to, yet are thrust into the midst of.

How can we change our experience of life into a glorious adventure rather than a horrible, Sisyphean trudge? Seneca’s got some pointers and Jon and Andrea have got more to add: This week we explore how to reset your emotional baseline; give some practical tips on shifting your mindset from shit to shiny; and talk about why intentionally forcing yourself to face acute threats is a really good idea.

Does life have to be a battle in the first place?

I really don’t think life is a battle at all.  Most of the time life is pretty dull unless you’re trying to change it.

– Andrea

Jon’s not so sure – being stuck in a 9-to-5 that you hate can feel like a Sisyphean labour with no outcome, something our ancestors didn’t have to deal with. At least when you gathered some berries you had some berries at the end of it – your identity, ‘career’ and sense of ‘meaning’ weren’t on the line in the process!

But maybe we’re looking at goals in the wrong way. What if we escaped the financial spreadsheets and set emotional goals for ourselves instead? Instead of thinking ‘I need a million dollars’, what if we aimed at ‘I want to buy a house for my grandmother’, or ‘I want to have a beautiful library I can relax and learn in’?

Still, this self-development game can be tricky – especially when the people providing it rarely have it together themselves. Or, as Andrea succinctly puts it:

Self-development is a cunt’s hair away from mental illness

– Andrea

We also talk about stress – the good kind, and the bad kind. We’ve evolved to thrive when we’re faced with acute, short-term threats and difficulties, not to exist in the constant state of unending stress and anxiety that modern culture currently provides. Seneca touches on this when he says that, in some very real ways, the gladiators facing death in the arena have got it better than those of us who struggle each day to make a meaningful life. At least the threats they face are tangible, clear, and existential in the most immediate sense.

Employers and our mentality about jobs are also a root cause of our anxiety and angst. Why do companies still think that they own their employees, rather than recognising that people are paid for providing the work that company needs? Why do we buy into the idea that we should be loyal to someone who clearly doesn’t value us, but only the work we produce on demand?

Switching back to the internal work, we’ve got some powerful tools to reset your emotional zero-point. Be it climbing a mountain, doing some intense cardio, or sitting in yoga positions, Andrea breaks down how these physical exertions can have powerful psychological, physiological and emotional benefits. That’s right – sometimes you can defeat fear by swinging some kettlebells or going for a long walk.

In this letter, it seems like Seneca thinks he’s cracked the code of life, that the only path to the good life is his kind of wisdom. We’re not so ready to take his word or his path, though – there’s many paths to get to the same destination. Some people call it ‘enlightenment’, others call it ‘flow’, still others call it ‘balling’. Seneca says the one path is ‘wisdom’ and that it will avoid all fuck-ups, but:

It’s back-to-front to say that you won’t blunder if you use wisdom. You will have blundered in order to become wise.

– Jon

And while Seneca exhorts us to become more self-aware and able to see where we’re going with our choices in life, Andrea has a different take. While that’s undeniably important, it can also be the opposite of freedom. Sometimes the dumbest people seem to be the freest… still, if you were offered an elixir right now to be ignorant but happy, would you actually drink it?

There’s also time for Jon to have a minor meltdown over how awful Reddit is; we accidentally cause the Holocaust with a custard pie; and Andrea devours the fruit of the Tree of Wisdom and Despair.

Also Including:

  • Increasing muscle strength while watching TV (seriously!)
  • How ‘gratitude’ really works
  • Why Zero-Hour contracts are actually be a good thing
  • Decoupling your emotions from your thoughts
  • Stop fearing the scientists!
  • The vibrator of life

Find Out More:

 

Be Silly. Be Kind. Be Weird.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!