I never spend a day in idleness. I set aside even part of the night for study. – Seneca
What does that mean?
This quote is from a longer passage in which he talks about his dedication to his art, and more importantly, why he does so.
He talks about withdrawing from the business of life so that he may study and think, and then write his conclusions. Not for his own good, as he has already figured it out for himself.
Instead, he dedicates his efforts into helping others, the ‘later generations’ as he calls them. He hopes that by writing down his ideas, that they might prove useful to someone.
He not only took his days to work for the future, he also took parts of his nights. And remember, he had to buy candles or oil for a lamp so he could see. That’s dedication.
Why is helping others important?
While we might not have quite that solid a drive to help others, we all have a part of us which wants to help, well excluding sociopaths and others with similar defects. Helping others gives us a great feeling, and a great many of us take the time to enjoy that feeling on a regular basis.
We all have different methods as well as different levels of comfort when helping others. It might be as simple as giving directions to a lost stranger, or holding open a door for someone with their hands full. But it still helps us feel great, and it does something useful for them as well.
On the selfish side, we feel both useful and better for having done something, which is a great reward. On the selfless side, the other person (or persons) have received something of at least nominal value, perhaps more, and that helps them, and may even help them feel better. Everybody wins.
Think about that. You get to do something which makes you feel better, and helps, often in a very real way, someone else. Does it matter that you may never see them, may never talk to them? It didn’t matter to Seneca, so it might be something to consider. Besides, you can always help people around you at any time, right?
Where can I apply this in my life?
I’m not going to be that busy, not as busy as Seneca was. Not because I like hanging around people, but because I enjoy the occasional bit of idleness. I like to spend a quiet afternoon with a book, or cool off by (or in) a pool when it is hot out. I’m far more selfish that Seneca was.
But his effort has made him a name known in nearly every town. He, and many other great orators and philosophers have streets named for them in many cities and towns all around the USA, and I would imagine in other parts of the world. That is what years of dedication can get you, I suppose.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not setting my sights that high. I’m comfortable living my life in quiet anonymity, and helping when I can. I also reserve the right to change my mind at a later time, although I can’t imagine that such a change would be very likely to occur.
What about you, how much time and effort will you put into helping others? Do you see yourself as being so selfish that you only rarely help others, or so selfless as to dedicate your life to helping others? I imagine you will be somewhere between, but have you taken any time to think about it?
Take a moment and consider what you have done for others. Have you moved over to allow someone to get by you more easily? Have you smiled or said hello to a stranger on the street? Have you given anyone a compliment or helped them open a door or pick up something they dropped?
How many other ways have you done things, little or big, for others? Has anyone ever asked you where something might be found in a store? Have you helped them reach something they couldn’t get themselves? Perhaps it was too high to reach, they couldn’t bend over to get it, or it was too heavy.
How do you feel about your list? Are you proud of it? If so, keep up the good work, and consider taking a challenge to do a little more. If you aren’t happy with your list, take a moment and add some things you could do, and when or where it might apply. That way, you’re a little more likely to remember, right?
Ultimately, we all live our lives according to our own tastes, desires, and values. Each of these change with time, and what you did yesterday might be different today. What will you do tomorrow? Will you help more, or less? Have you ever thought of it? Will you think of it now?
From: Twitter, @quotesofseneca
confirmed at : http://www.stoics.com/seneca_epistles_book_1.html#‘VIII1 halfway thru first paragraph
Photo by San José Library