In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English.
Letter 17. Change the way you think to be truly rich
Don’t wait until sometime in the future to start practicing philosophy. The temptation is to wait until you are financially secure or have reached a pre-defined standard of living before you begin. What you’ll find is that seeking ever more riches becomes an end in itself. You’ll never have enough money. You will get wrapped up in the constant pursuit of becoming wealthy. This will mean that you end up never having the time to use philosophy to enrich your life.
I’ll put this another way: image you’re 80 years old and on your death bed. Look back over your life: would the pursuit of ever more riches hold regrets for you? Would you say that you had spent your time well?
More questions: Were you more or less happy several years ago when you had less? Has a higher level of income or more possessions made you happier?
In some respects, not having much money can be liberating. Seek to have enough to have a comfortable life and no more. If you have a minimal amount of material posessions then you’ll likely look after them, and place a higher degree of value on them too. Philosophical reflection offers wealth which isn’t monetary. Philosophical reflection gives you a differnt type of wealth. Its wealth that comes when you strive for personal excellence. If you think about wealth in these terms then you will be richer than most people.
I’ll sign off by reiterating that it’s the way we think about wealth that’s the problem, not the wealth itself. It we perceive it to be important, more important than striving for personal excellence, then it will be. So, start philosophical reflection today; change the way you think to be a truly rich person.
Read the original text here.
I recommend you read all of the most influential Letters in this new Penguin Classic book. It is the best translation, in my opinion, because it captures Seneca’s humour and style. It is also the easiest to read. My copy is full of highlighted lines, margin notes and tabs. A treasure chest of profound, practical advice which you can apply immediately.
Warning: this is not an academic text; it describes a hands-on philosophy of life. Discover powerful, instantly helpful wisdom. The complete guide to improving your day-to-day activities, thoughts and actions.