Showing posts with label Seneca. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Seneca. Show all posts

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Live in the now by looking for a perfect moment.

Stoic Saturdays is a regular feature on UU A Way Of Life with quotes of stoic philosophers show- cased in the feature.

From On The Shortness of Life by Seneca

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.

Seneca. On the Shortness of Life (Penguin Great Ideas) (p. 13). Penguin Publishing Group.


In A Course In Miracles a perfect moment is what the Course calls a "Holy Instant." A Holy Instant is when time stands still, a person has merged with the flow, with the Tao, and become one with the web of existence of which they are a part rather than a separate ego.

Every day we should look for a perfect moment. Some days we may experience more than one even several. A day with several perfect moments is what we can call a "perfect day."

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Stoic philosophy - The life of the philosopher is affirmed by the UU fourth principle.

Articles on stoic philophy is a regular feature of the UU A Way Of Life ministries blog which appear on Saturdays.

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. How many people do you know who live examined lives?

Some people in twelve step programs like Alcoholic Anonymous do. Unitarian Universalists, among religious people, are more likely to because of their covanant to affirm and promote the fourth step which is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. As Seneca points out in his book, On The Shortness Of Life, philosophers do.

The perennial philosophical question is, "What is the good life?" My daughter, Kelly, asked me, "Why don't they study this in school?"

"Good question," I said. "I think it is a dangerous question. The Athenians put Socrates to death for asking its youth this question. The Athenians accused Socrates of corrupting the youth. How do you think the authorities in this day and age would handle the controversies that would arise if this question were seriously posed and considered among our youth in government run schools?"

The person who can consider the question, "What is the good life?" is not bound by the conventions of societal norms and attitudes. Such a person is free to explore possibilities and eventually get to the Truth and the heart of the question of the purpose of life. Such an explorer, such a seeker, is the recipient of the wisdom of the ages which Unitarian Universalists identify as one of the six sources of their living tradition which is the "direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness ot the forces which create and uphold life."

The seeker, based on the UU fourth principle, engaging in the first source, is, indeed, treated as if there is a spark of God within to be further recognized, acknowledged, appreciated, and comprehended.

Perhaps the life of the philosopher is the good life which we all consciously or unconsciously seek.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Stoic Philosophy - Seneca - The life of the philosopher

The articles on stoic philosophy are a regular feature of the UU A Way Of Life blog which appear on Saturdays.

Seneca's little book, On The Shortness Of Life, has the ability to stimulate thoughts about the purpose and meaning of life, UU's fourth principle which is the affimation and promotion of the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Seneca is encouraging this search to take us into the realm of philosophy which leads us to the most fundamental question of "What is the good life and how to live it."

Socrates tells us that "The unexamined life is not worth living." It is in the examination of our experiences in life that we deepen and enrich our interior spiritual life and become more aware of our innate holiness.

The point made in A Course In Miracles is that we can walk the path of the ego, or the path of God. The Universalists have taught us that the path of God is the awareness of, and extension, of Unconditional Love. The path of the ego is the way of conditional love which brings grievance, resentment, fear, and sorrow. The only essential question in life is "Which path do we choose to walk, the path of the ego or the path of God."

Seneca's quote today reminds us that the life of the philosopher is not bound by the illusions and idols found on the path of the ego. "He alone is freed from the limitations of the human race." The life of the philosopher has taken him/her on the path of God into the realm of the nondualistic Oneness to which the perennial philosphy points us. It is this perennial philosophy accumlated from "all ages" as Seneca writes, "which serve him as if a god."

Unitarian Univeralism calls itself a "living tradition" which draws from many sources or which six are named but in summary make up what is called the perennial philosophy and Seneca calls "the wide range."

The quote above is very pithy and succinct and when deconstructed deepens our understanding of what can make life richer and more meaningful and deepen our spiritual lives.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Stoic philosophy - Business as a distraction from true Life.

 Stoic philosophy is a regular feature of UU A Way Of Life ministries blog which appears on Saturdays.

Most people keep very, very busy. What is all this business about? Some philosophers say business is a distraction from our fears of our mortality, that is the fear that we all will some day die.

Are we bodies with a spirits or spirits with bodies? This is not a cute quip but a serious question. 

Most of us, all of us for some part of our lives, believe that we are primarily bodies. We are taught by others, and/or come to discover ourselves, usually with great pain and suffering, that in fact we are not bodies, but spirits. This is what Jesus was trying to teach us in His crucifixion. Most Christians have failed to get Jesus' point. The idea that Jesus died for our sins sacrificing His body as some sort of blood atonement is a sick and insane belief. Jesus was trying to demonstrate the opposite - that the body can be killed but the spirit is alive and well.

As Senca tells us, this lesson, that we are spirits not bodies, is hard to learn. It is difficult because we are focused on our fears instead of on our love and Creation's love for us.

Seneca encourages us to set our business aside and start living with an awareness of the Divine. It is outside of business, sitting with our fears of bodily death, and moving past them, that we find peace and bliss. Jesus told us clearly that the way to the Kingdom is "to love as I have loved."

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Stoic philosophy - Seneca: Dying well

Stoic philosophy is a regular feature of the UU A Way Of Life ministries blog which appears on Saturdays.

"It's not a bad life if you know how to live it," is a phrase I have been muttering to myself since I was a boy. I don't know where I learned it but it has been a theme of my life to which I turn when I feel unhappy.

Now getting to the end of my life at age 73, I am more aware than previously of coming to the end of my life. Since I was in my 50s, I think of death on a regular basis. To become aware of one's motality is normal, and not only normal, but a good thing because the awareness of one's mortality helps a person live more mindfully.

The covenant of Unitarian Univeralism helps a person overcome the separation and join with others on the path of the Spirit where we are reminded that Unconditional Love is immortal and doesn't die but is One with the Creator of which we are a part.

It says in A Course In Miracles, in the introduction, "The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all encompassing can have no opposite."

And so what I have been learning as I have lived my life is how to get back home from whence I came. Shedding the body, the creation and home of the ego, will be the last thing I have to do to experience the Divine Love that I faintly remember and have spent my life, most of the time unconsciously, pursuing.

Does Unitarian Univeralism with its covenant to affirm and promote seven principles help us die well? Yes. The covenant is a manifestation that we are all in this thing called Life together and none of us gets our bodies out alive. As the spirit is pried lose we embrace the interdependent web of all existence of which we have reminded ourselves regularly that we are a part. While our bodies die, our spirit is healed as we return once again to become one with our Loving Creator and to experience at the primal level the inherent worth and dignity which we all share.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Seneca - life is long enough if we are invested in its purpose.

Every Saturday, UU A Way Of Life publishes an article on stoic philosophy.

Seneca tells us that life is long enough if we make the most of it.

A Course In Miracles teaches that the purpose of life is to accept the Atonement for ourselves and to share it with others. The Atonement is the recognition that we made a mistake in believing that we could separate ourselves from the nondualistic Oneness of God, or the Tao, or the Spirit of Life, or the Higher Power, however you understand it.

Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote the respect for the interdependent web of existence which (of course) we are a part. Some people come to appreciate, understand, and become grateful for this respect and others never seem to become aware of it.

The good life, as Seneca reminds us, is to invest our awareness and energy in envisioning the best that is in us and in others or as UUs name it, "the inherent worth and dignity of every person."

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Seneca - It's not a bad life if you know how to live it.

Every Saturday, UU A Way Of Life publishes an article on stoic philosophy.

The last few weeks we have been discussing quotes from Seneca's essay, "On The Shortness Of Life." This week, we note that Seneca tells us that life is long enough; the problem is that we waste much of it.

Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote seven principles the fourth of which is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. This principle reminds me of Socrates saying that the unexamined life is not worth living. In psychology this examining is called "reflective functioning" and is considered one of the important components of emotional intelligence.

Examining one's life and engaging in reflective functioning contributes to one's self knowledge. Do you know what makes you tick? Do you know what and who you are?

We are told in A Course In Miracles that our function is forgiveness: first ourselves and then our brothers and sisters. And what are we to forgive? The misguided notion that we are the illusions that we project onto ourselves and the so called "world."

Bottom line is that what we think we know is mostly bull shit. It is impermanent as Buddha pointed out to us and the cause of our suffering.

Seneca shares with us the idea that it is a not a bad life if we know how to live it. Fact is that most of us are struggling to find our way back to our source. Having found it, life is plenty long enough.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Growing up and growing old are two different things

UU A Way Of Life publishes an article on stoic philosophy every Saturday.

Seneca makes the point than growing old and growing up are two different things. There are some people who have lived long in chronological time but they have not grown in wisdom and grace.

When it comes to life, do you aspire to quanity or quality?

A life well lived is sufficient for satisfaction and fulfillment no matter how many chronological years it entails.

Unitarian Univeralists covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. To what extent has any individual or group of people or church been successful in that search?

Many of the UU churches I have observed have resorted to pettiness, bickering, and schisms of all sorts. One small UU church I have observed over almost 20 years goes through a schism about every five years. The church I currently attend periodically has been through about 6 ministers, counting the interims, in the last 10 years. These churches are over 100 years old so that have grown old, but they have not grown up and whether they will survive to any kind of maturity is highly questionable.

Whether the application of this fourth principle contributes to any kind of constructive maturation raises significant questions about the governance structure which seems to have crippled UU maturation as a denomination and "living tradition."

Seneca's point about the shortness of life whether of individuals, groups, or communities can lead us to constructive reflection on our functioning.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

On The Shortness of Life by Seneca

I hope you are enjoying the reading of Seneca's little book, "On The Shortness of Life." UU A Way Of Life mininstries will be posting articles on this book and the stoic philosophers every Saturday.

Seneca tells us that what shortens our experience of life is to live in the past or to live in the future and not pay enough attention to what's happening in the present.

Seneca tells us to stop and smell the roses.

A Course In Miracles tells us that to project our past experiences into the future is insanity. As the saying goes, "Ya never know."

As a therapist people ask me, "Do you think people can really change?"

"Of course they can," I answer. What it takes though is "letting go" as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous. "One day at a time," they counsel in AA.

Jesus said, "Why are you worrying about tomorrow? Let tomorrow worry about itself."

Seneca tells us to be engrossed in the present. The Buddhists tell us to chop wood and carry water. In other words "Be here now."

But our fears get in our way and prevent us from paying attention. Can we set aside our fears and just be aware of Love's presence? It is our natural inheritance.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

On The Shortness of Life - "Life is long enough" if it is well lived.

At church two weeks ago an acquaintance shared with me that he is a student of stoic philosophy. I was delighted to learn this, because it is an interest of mine as well.

I have noticed that Seneca's essay entitled, "On The Shortness Of Life" has become popular again over the last couple of years so I thought it is worth a discussion here on UU A Way of Life Ministries blog. Over the next few weeks, there will be posts describing ideas from this work. Please share your ideas and comments.

Seneca's idea that life is long enough is based on the presumption that it is well lived. As a kid, I found myself mildly depressed and I would reassure myself by muttering, "It's not a bad life if you know how to live it."

I was probably 10 years old when I realized this and could articulate it. Where I got the idea from I do not know. It was long before I learned about Seneca and the stoic philosophy.

Talking with my daughter 60 years later, we both commiserated that this idea is not studied in our schools. It is a basic existential question which is not overtly asked and studied by the young.

In our society, young people are fed a steady diet of materialism, consumerism, competitiveness, and violence. Competitiveness and regenerative violence is the basis of our American society. Based on these egotistical values, life seems very short indeed with young people dying from gun violence and drug overdoses. The death rate from drug overdoses, gun violence (2/3rds suicide), and DWI fatalities are leading causes of death.

Life, indeed, can be short for many, even if they have lived for years. As Osho has said, growing old, and growing up are two different things.

What is the good life? What does the well lived life consist of? If we are to die well, we have to live well.

Unitarian Univeralists covenant together to affirm and promote seven principles implying that this covenant and the application of these principles are the basis of a well lived life.

The fourth principle, to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, is something which it seems Seneca would heartily approve of and, in fact, seems to at the end of his essay as we shall see.

Will you join me in reading and reflecting along as we study On The Shortness of Life?

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