In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English.
Letter 18. Practise Self-Control
As the year comes to a close, people tend to hold extended celebrations, follow social routines and get lost in activity. The question is, do you change your daily schedule and join in, or not? Put another way, you can either fall into the way the crowd thinks or be courageous and show a higher degree of self-control. That’s not to say you can’t take part, as if you didn’t then some may consider you to be a social outsider. But it’s good to know when enough is enough and leave others to get on with things.
A useful way of practicing self-control is to plan some time where you decide to uncomfortable. For example, eat only basic food or dress in a simple way. This will help to train you in the event that you have to live like this out of necessity. You’ll soon realise that this exercise isn’t as bad as you feared and you can cope with it. The other thing it will do is that when you’ve reached the end of this self-imposed period of austerity, you’ll be much more grateful of what you have. So, the food you’ve taken for granted will taste better. Also, the clothes you thought weren’t stylish will seem like the latest fashion, and so on.
Also, when you are living like this just remember that you’ve chosen to do so. Think about the millions of people in the world who don’t have a choice!
Before I sign off I’ll leave you with this thought: unrestrained anger is no different from insanity. The trigger for anger may be due to someone you hate, what they’ve done or not done. Likewise this trigger may come from someone you love. But remember that it’s not the person who is causing the anger, it’s yourself. You’ve made a conscious choice to get angry. Once you’re enraged then you’ll forget about reason and tranquility, and you don’t want this to happen.
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.