If Seneca were alive today and he were writing his last letter to Lucilius, what would he be writing about?
Seneca greets his Lucilius (Greatings, dear Lucilius:).
I found in an old trunk, all the letters that you sent me so many years ago, and this made me very happy. I haven't received any news from you for a couple of millennia, and I hope someday you will receive this last letter from me. I have so much to tell you.
In the past twenty centuries, I have witnessed an incredible evolution of Humanity. If you could see how many amenities, stunning technologies, media and locomotion systems people have at their disposal nowadays, you might think everyone must be happy. Well, that's not true, unfortunately....
In our time we had nothing, but we were rich. In recent centuries, wealth has taken the place of inner richness, and people now aspire to become rich instead of wise.
Having read your manuscripts again and again, I was surprised by the extraordinary topicality and timelessness of your thoughts and speeches about wealth that say: poor is not who has little, but who wants more.
Although today's economic wealth is widespread, people are poor because they keep on desiring for more and more.
During these centuries I have watched Humanity invent airplanes, wireless telegraphy and incredible machinery. People have been wearing different clothes following time's fashions, but their spirit never changed through it all. If anything they are worse for not knowing how bad off the mark they are.
Contemporary men are exactly the same men as we knew in our golden age, with the same mysteries and ideals, with the exact same fears, contradictions, virtues and ambitions. And then, as always, they believe they can dominate their world. However, they are but small boats which sail aimlessly through rough seas at the mercy of the winds.
People became less combative and more submissive, as domesticated cats that have no more interest in chasing mice while they have secured a meal. All these facilities and developments which have made life easier have made them blind, jealous and alone. They are now terribly alone, unable to look honestly into one another's eyes.
They are all poor already, but they don't know it yet; and they are afraid of becoming even poorer.
Do you wonder how to come out of this poverty? By understanding that wealth is not that important as inner richness and that happiness can be achieved by tempering all wills. Do not be afraid then, because someday very soon, even contemporary men will figure it out.
I wish you have known a twentieth century philosopher who came from the new world to say:
"Those who cannot remember their past are condemned to repeat it"
Because men have never really changed, Humanity instead will turn back to what they know deep within is true very soon.
If Seneca were alive today, I would bet that he would have written something memorable about the pretended evolution of Humanity.
By the way... what each of us can do here is very little indeed, but it is nonetheless necessary.
Let's temper our compulsive desires for unnecessary items and let's pursue what makes us truly happy. Let's love each other. And let's raise our aspirations. And when we succeed, let's teach others to do the same.
We may all become poor soon, because of the crisis that is hitting Europe so hard. By learning how to rely on our inner richness and to be happy, our life is not going to end when our money does.
Let's get rid of money's curse and let's begin to live happily.
Happiness, like all other worthwhile things in life, need no money to be achieved.
Don't forget it!
Toronto, February 8th, 2014
- Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, Lucius Annaeus Seneca (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistulae_morales_ad_Lucilium );
- De vita beata, Lucius Annaeus Seneca (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Vita_Beata);
- De Brevitate vitae, Lucius Annaeus Seneca (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Brevitate_Vitae_(Seneca));
- Satire #1.9, Horace (http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/horace/serm1.shtml)
- George Santayana on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Santayana)
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