It’s time to get spiritual this week as Stoicism starts to merge almost imperceptibly with an even more ancient philosophy: Buddhism. This is Letter 41: ‘On the God within Us’, and it not only draws us into the realm of motivation and growth, but also how we fundamentally value and think about ourselves.
The Buddha taught that we all have ‘Buddha nature’, and that much of the path to enlightenment (or ‘the good life’, as Seneca would call it) is about learning how to recognise it. This is a world away from Jordan Peterson’s approach to self-development. For him, we’re all fallen, disgusting creatures who can at best hope to pull ourselves a little way out of our own filth. But what if we thought of ourselves, not as fallen angels, but as rising apes?
But to do that, we need to take action. Seneca exhorts Lucilius not to just sit about moping and waiting for life to happen to him, but to get off his ass and do something. And for us in the modern world, a surprising amount of change and growth can happen simply by writing a few emails, making contacts, and asking for input.
Yet with modern technology taking us ever closer to Matrix-style downloads of knowledge, what might we lose along the way? Seneca insists that you have to do the hard work of learning to ever reap its benefits… and he might be right. Even if you could instantly ‘know kung-fu’, what happens to all the emotional growth which the dedication and discipline of doing it the old fashioned way can bring you?
This week’s episode also takes us back to the centre of Stoicism, but shows it from a different perspective. Every external possession can be taken from us, so all that’s truly ‘ours’ is our internal world. So why should we admire people for attributes which don’t truly belong to them? Fancy clothes, big houses and TV shows aren’t the core of what makes someone who they are. All the same, they might be expressions of what you’ve achieved…
Thankfully, we untie this philosophical knot be=y casting the world into two simple categories: people who admire the Kardashians and people who admire The Rock!
Because it’s not about the bling, it’s about being yourself. Whether it’s Napoleon or you, it’s ultimately all about being the most you you can be. The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, as Joseph Campbell put it, and in this episode we really dig down into what that means and how to apply it to your everyday life.
Jon also shares his experiences of cosmic unity while tripping on Huachuma in the Amazon and spending a month in a Buddhist monastery… and how they’re all sort of Stoicism. And alongside trying to understand what makes sunsets appear so beautiful to us, Andrea admits he’s been having dreams about Jon for years…
- Saying ‘no’ with panache
- How to own fight-or-flight moments
- Why love is like the sun
- Does it have soul?
- Baking hate cakes
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