While reading this book (actually, I was listening to it), I remembered Robin Williams’ famous scene in ‘Dead Poets Society’ where he urges his students to seize the day (CARPE DIEM!!!). The emotions that I felt, when I saw the film for the first time were similar to what I felt when I listened to Seneca’s words. What is interesting about this is that Robin Williams’ character and Seneca are completely different. John Keating is passionate, full of life, emotional and has a vibrant personality. Seneca, on the other hand, was a Roman STOIC philosopher who believed in self-control and rationality. And yet, when Seneca tells you that you are basically wasting your life, you experience strong emotions because he creates a sense of urgency. He doesn’t tell you to “live live to the fullest.” He is not talking about hedonism. He is talking about purpose and wisdom.
In one of the most moving passages in the book, Seneca says that we can’t choose our parents. But we can choose whose children we would like to be. Like Maria Popova (from Brainpickings) writes in her article about this book, we can ‘reparent’ ourselves by learning from people who have left a treasure of wisdom and shared their thoughts about their journey on this planet. We can consult dead philosophers, who have a lot to say about life’s complicated problems.
This book makes you feel like a loser because ancient wisdom is at your fingertips and you are still fucked up.