The devil is in the detail… and that’s the problem. This week is about not becoming obsessed with detail at the expense of actually doing or creating something yourself. It’s about not trying to control things by over-planning and over-preparing, lest you want to spend your whole life getting ‘ready’ to live.
Drawing on the horrifically-named Letter 45, ‘On Sophistical Argumentation’, we lay down a challenge for you to find the courage to put yourself out into the world and try some of those plans we know you’ve been hatching all these years.
Lucilius doesn’t think he’s ready, though. He’s complaining that he doesn’t have enough books to be the man he wants to be, so he comes to his mentor Seneca for help. But old man Seneca doesn’t respond well: stop reading indiscriminately and stop trying to find the answers to your questions solely in the works of other people, he berates his charge.
There is no perfect book or perfect solution that will fix all your problems and salve all your fears. Wanna know a secret? Whatever you read or experience, when you’re asking good questions of yourself and world, answers start to turn up regardless. You’ve primed yourself, and suddenly ideas and insights can start cropping up when you’re scanning the nutritional info on your cereal box, so there’s no need to spend your life trying to read through your local library.
But the temptation and allure of finding the one book or person who can lead us to salvation remains. It can be hard to avoid jumping on a guru’s bandwagon at some point in our lives. Don’t get us wrong, being excited and inspired by an author or speaker can be very positive… but not if you start entirely abdicating your mental faculties to them (as so many Jordan Peterson fans are doing these days). Nobody has all the answers, which is why Seneca refuses to send Lucilius a stash of his collected works.
The aim is to seed your mind, not to fill it.
The flip-side of this can be just as dangerous, though. Living a life based on the rejection of a particular person or school of thought is like burning coal: it’s not a sustainable or healthy fuel source for your life. You’re not free if you’re only defining yourself against people you dislike – something Jon’s experienced first hand in his own personal journey.
And along with all that, Seneca still has time to exhort us not to wrongly label unhelpful perceptions in order to make ourselves feel better. Are you scared but calling it prudence? Are you a dick, but calling yourself strong-willed?
And there’s time to, well, debate the nature of time; whether ‘good’ and ‘necessary’ are always the same thing; and what the very best way of having sex in a library would be.
- How to not drown in knowledge
- Does cleaning your room help people as much as Jordan Peterson would have us believe?
- Getting tricked by online marketers (time to tame your brain!)
- Stop calling time the only finite resource: it’s subjective!
- Playing morality Jenga
Find Out More:
- Jon’s finally released his book! Check it out on Amazon US or UK!
- Come discuss the show in our Facebook Group
- Hit us up on Instagram!
- The full text for free on WikiSource
- Our new Sex & Relationships episodes!