Starting 2020 well with Seneca top teaching from"On the Shortness of Life"

I decided to publish a few of my favourite Seneca’s quote from his book “On the Shortness of Life” to start this new year.

It is always important to remind ourselves of those things that are truly important in life. It also helps us to prioritise our daily life, our decisions every day and aim for what will add real value to us and others. So, here they are…

“Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future.”

“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire”

“But excess in any sphere is reprehensible.”

“As far as I am concerned, I know that I have lost not wealth but distractions. The body’s needs are few: it wants to be free from cold, to banish hunger and thirst with nourishment; if we long for anything more we are exerting ourselves to serve our vices, not our needs.”

“Life is long, if you know how to use it.”

“All life is a servitude.” 

In summary, there are Five Things to Consider as we start the new year:

1 – What should my focus be every day this year?

2- What should I eliminate from my life?

3 – Stop procrastinating, show up and get on with it!

4 – Work hard and smart in the present, seize the moment, and the future will look after itself.

5 – Define what is ENOUGH and live by it, one can find meaning and happiness there.

Have you all a very peaceful, blessed and successful 2020!

What does Merry Christmas mean to you?

ho-ho-ho

I do not want to sound ‘Grinchy’ about Christmas but I must be honest; I do struggle with the whole polite ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting that goes around this time of the year.

If an alien landed on Earth on December 25th and was greeted by “Merry Christmas Visitor”; what would she/he think about it? Let’s say our dear visitor friend would ‘Google it!’ from her/his spaceship, the results would be thoroughly confusing. What on Earth is Christmas? Why having a ‘Merry One’ matters so much?

I often wonder what people really mean by ‘Have a Merry Christmas? What shall I reply to it? Should a be polite or dismissive? When asked whether I like to celebrate Christmas, I normally reply with a Jordan Peterson type of reply – ‘It depends on what you mean by Christmas’.

Of course, people do not want to hear that, and they are not prepared to engage in a debate there and then. There is no time to think about such trivialities. So, just say – Yes, sure, Merry Christmas to you too! – and move along. Why bother!?

I recently realised that the longer I live, the older I get, the more I start looking like Diogenes, the ‘controversial philosopher’, not that I consider myself one. I just have to say something cynical or provoking. For my own regret, I can’t resist. Merry Christmas might mean an awful lot or nothing at all to you depending on what you do with it and how you deal with it. It is not about beliefs as much as it is behavioural or traditions. Some traditions are worth keeping, some others we must challenge, change or leave them altogether.

Does Christmas mean the birth of Christ (surely not in historic terms)? Santa (that’s very good news for Coca-cola)? Consumerism (been there, done that!)? Or, perhaps, having a break from work and not seeing your boss’ raging grumpy face for 10 days or so (that’s fantastic news right)? Whatever your reply might be, you would always give a polite one right?

I have friends from all cultural and religious backgrounds. I myself was brought up within a Christian-Judeo tradition. Most of them, including Sikhs and Muslims, like the Christmas time, for them, it is a time for getting together, eating, celebrating, being with their family. We all like to exchange presents, sing, play and dance, be happy, to be merry! What is wrong with that after all? We can all say yes to such a nice time together no matter which religion or phylosophy we subscribe to.

But there is an invisible Christmas, the one of the homeless, the destitute, the employee who got laid-off and now are contemplating suicide, the daughters whose mom is dying in the hospital, the hundred of thousands living below the poverty line, the couple who is splitting over unpaid bills, the working man who can barely afford the food, the single mom who is using the last few pounds on her account to buy gifts to their children, you can fill your own here. Would they also have a Merry Christmas? Is that possible?

For me the preferred one would be to disappear and get into my own thoughts, to read, reflect and contemplate about the year that has gone. I do not subscribe to any tradition neither like the glittering meetings and parties.

I like to think, meditate about my decisions in the past year the results achieved looking into the year ahead for new opportunities and possibilities. A time to seek wisdom for self-improvement. That would be my preferred ‘Merry Christmas’ but in reality most of this time is take up by family and friends still expecting you to show up, or to play your part. The Management of expectations comes between them and a real self ‘Merry Christmas’.

“Ask yourself at every moment. Is this really necessary?

Marcus Aurelius

Merry for me is ‘simple’, quiet and reflective. I time to see the world, its needs and find ways to play my part to improve it. Being grateful for the life I have whlist questioning what can be improved? Above all it about escaping from overindulging marketing and consumerism appeals with the promises of happier moments once we have bought the new set-of-something we do not really need.

What does ‘Merry Christmas’ mean to you? Would you be able to have one this year?