Greetings friends! James Bellerjeau here.
In this week's Moral Letters, we start to explore some hard truths. For example, our individual natures are hard to change. In Moral Letter 011 (On Introverts) we talk about how, even with practice, introverts are unlikely to be comfortable amidst crowds. But it's OK to be most at home in your own company. This is because for the Stoics good things spring from self-possession and knowing your mind.
We confront this theme head-on in Moral Letter 012 (On Aging). Packing up my office and seeing all the things that had become obsolete with time, of course I had to wonder at my own obsolescence. Aging is nothing we can stop or control. So what do the Stoics recommend? Seneca puts it this way:
Let us therefore set our minds in order that we may desire whatever is demanded of us by circumstances.
There are many upsides to aging. If you put your mind to it, you can keep a positive perspective about your aging. Nothing then will come to you unwilling.
Together with such weighty topics, I think we need to have a little comic relief. I posted two other articles this week that were inspired by scenes from the 1978 comedy classic movie Animal House. If you are of a certain age, it is possible images from this movie are burned indelibly in your memory:
- John Belushi starting a food fight in the school cafeteria, after the lovely lilting voice of Sam Cooke singing "What a Wonderful World" serenades us into the scene.
- Or then there is the Delta Tau Chi fraternity slouching on their tatty couch, drinking beer, and heckling pictures of prospective members on the slide screen.
In Dean Wormer Was Right! (We’re All Flounder Now), I poke fun at how we can be self-centered and full of ourselves. There is a real danger here, however, and having some self-awareness can be an antidote to the poison that afflicts polarized public discourse.
So too in You’re On Double Secret Probation!, I discuss cancel culture. I see it everywhere, although I still come across people who say they have not heard of cancel culture. It is good to be forewarned and forearmed, so in this article I give a short insight into how I think we all should respond to it.
What we have with us at all times is our minds and our thoughts. All we have to do is be still and listen. We are easily led astray by what others say and do. But knowing when to stay silent and not join the mob, even when it seems everyone is marching in the same direction, is the first step on the path to wisdom.