On Obedience to the Universal Will
The big ideas:
- amor fati
- your fate (what actually happens to you) is the material from which you demonstrate excellence of human character or virtue or arete
- if you did not have an opportunity to demonstrate excellence, then how could you practice and improve at being an excellent human being? what is a painter without a canvas? what is a sculptor without the clay?
- get on with it! prepare for events and be ready for them
- premeditatio malorum is how you prepare for your fate
Most of Letter 107 will focus on the dis-preferred indifferents; things which we generally wish to avoid. But, there is a whole other side of externals which we rarely prepare for: preferred indifferents. How often do we put our equanimity at risk when a preferred indifferent comes into our life? It's something to think about.
Here is a list of all the dis-preferred indifferents Seneca notes in this letter:
- slaves run away (perhaps a modern example would be employees or people for hire don't show up to do a job, and leave you in the lurch)
- friends lie and deceive you
- being robbed, blackmailed, betrayed, attacked, poisoned, slandered
- cold winters, hot summers or unseasonable weather
- dealing with wild beasts
- floods and fires, damaging winds
It is as nonsensical to be put out by such events as to complain of being spattered in the street or at getting befouled in the mud. The programme of life is the same as that of a bathing establishment, a crowd, or a journey: sometimes things will be thrown at you, and sometimes they will strike you by accident. Life is not a dainty business.
you will despise them, if you often take thought and anticipate the future. 4. Everyone approaches courageously a danger which he has prepared himself to meet long before, and withstands even hardships if he has previously practised how to meet them.
We must see to it that nothing shall come upon us unforeseen.
no matter what trouble you mention, it has happened to many.
We should not manifest surprise at any sort of condition into which we are born, and which should be lamented by no one, simply because it is equally ordained for all.
Be sure to prescribe for your mind this sense of equity; we should pay without complaint the tax of our mortality.
And we cannot change this order of things; but what we can do is to acquire stout hearts, worthy of good men, thereby courageously enduring chance and placing ourselves in harmony with Nature.
Eternity consists of opposites. It is to this law that our souls must adjust themselves, this they should follow, this they should obey. Whatever happens, assume that it was bound to happen, and do not be willing to rail at Nature. That which you cannot reform, it is best to endure, and to attend uncomplainingly upon the God under whose guidance everything progresses
we should welcome our orders with energy and vigour, nor should we cease to follow the natural course of this most beautiful universe, into which all our future sufferings are woven.
let Fate find us ready and alert. Here is your great soul – the man who has given himself over to Fate
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