Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The elements of a happy life

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who lived from 4 BCE to 65 CE, was a Roman senator and political adviser to the emperor Nero. He was one of the main exponents of the Stoic school of philosophy. 

Stoicism teaches us that the highest good in life is the pursuit of the four cardinal virtues of practical wisdom, temperance, justice and courage – because they are the only things that always do us good and can never be used for ill.

Here is a set of seven ‘commandments to himself’ from Book XX ‘Of a Happy Life’. They provide a way to philosophically structure our own lives:
I) I will look upon death or upon a comedy with the same expression of countenance. 
II) I will despise riches when I have them as much as when I have them not. 
III) I will view all lands as though they belong to me, and my own as though they belonged to all mankind. 
IV) Whatever I may possess, I will neither hoard it greedily nor squander it recklessly.
V) I will do nothing because of public opinion, but everything because of conscience. 
VI) I will be agreeable with my friends, gentle and mild to my foes: I will grant pardon before I am asked for it, and will meet the wishes of honorable men half-way. 
VII) Whenever either Nature demands my breath again, or reason bids me dismiss it, I will quit this life, calling all to witness that I have loved a good conscience, and good pursuits.
Not bad for a dead white guy. 

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