The Daily Stoic: January 3, 2021

Filed in PhilosophyTags: Clarity, Daily Stoic, Perception, Seneca

Reflections on The Daily Stoic:

  • The Discipline of Perception
  • January's Theme: Clarity
  • Topic: Be Ruthless to the Things That Don't Matter
  • Stoic: Seneca

Today's quote:

How many have laid waste to your life when you weren't aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements - how little of your own was left to you. You will realize you are dying before your time!

- On the Brevity of Life, 3.3b

There is incredible power in the word "No" - especially in making the most of the finite time we have available each day, each week, each year, and in our lifetime. Modern society makes much of - or at least, pays lip service to - work-life balance; but even aside from that balance, what of our choices in how we spend our time away from work? And what about the thoughts and emotions that occupy our minds at work, at home, and even while we sleep?

As we have already contemplated, 2020 and the beginning of 2021 have given us ample opportunity to be consumed by such thoughts and emotions - even as many find themselves less "busy" in terms of physical activity. As a result, we cannot find peace, calm - serenity.

There is a difference between appropriate concern for the things for which we are responsible and worry. The latter not only can become a time thief by consuming our thoughts, but for Christians can be seen as a lack of faith in God who has promised to provide: "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:31-34)

And anxiety and worry are only the beginning. Other passions can consume us, especially in our current, social media-driven culture. As Paul instructs the church as Colossae: "But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." (Colossians 3:8)

So then, what should consume our thoughts?  "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:2) Further: "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:12-15)

As Paul encourages the church at Philippi: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

Peace of mind and an attitude of gratitude, then, are a conscious choice - a choice that is entirely under our own control, a choice that frees us from thoughts and emotions that would consume our finite time, and a choice that helps us truly live the life we are intended.