Get More Pleasure in Life
Hi, Seneca here. Once I was one of the richest men in the Roman Empire and had access to the finest pleasures and luxuries.
Some critics accused me of hypocrisy. Why so? Because they thought there was a contradiction between my advocacy of a simple life and my wealth.
Stoics are often depicted as taking a strong stance against pleasures. That's true. We are highly suspicious of pleasures and view them with caution.
However, Stoics, as you might have thought, ain't killjoys at all. We don't teach to view the world as gloomy and joyless with no place for pleasure in it.
No! Stoicism teaches us to observe and listen closely to what human nature demands from us in its purpose.
It solely guides us to live a happy and flourishing life, in which pleasures deserve their rightful place.
To completely deny all life pleasures would mean denying and going against what nature itself has prescribed us.
Nature has intelligently intertwined pleasure with things that are necessary for our survival and flourishing to make them look appealing in our eyes.
For this reason, Stoics don't contend against natural pleasures as long as they are measured. They preach against attachment, not avoidance.
To be unattached means to be wholeheartedly willing to part with pleasures at any moment. Otherwise, pleasures might enslave us depriving us of inner freedom in the neverending chase of them.
There is a story about the Persian king Xerxes who claimed to reward whoever found new pleasures for him when he was surrounded already by every pleasure known to man. The King of all Kings was ironically the Slave of all Slaves.
However, one is hardly less foolish when he cuts himself off from the pleasures that good fortune has found for him.
So you should neither chase pleasures nor avoid them. Instead, despise them and stay indifferent.
I say pleasures are to be despised not for you not to have them, but, to avoid becoming enslaved by worries about constantly keeping or losing them.
Pleasures should be viewed as merely a pleasant bonus but not as the whole point of living.
I know this might be hard to grasp. To illustrate this point, imagine yourself being invited to a banquet. It is very crowded there.
A few waiters go back and forth, serving food and beverages on a tray to all guests.
Suppose you see one tray from afar with something you like very much on it.
If that particular waiter comes up to you, reach out your hand and take some food politely. But as soon as he is about to leave, just thank him with good grace and let go without greedily holding down the tray.
If you are not sure whether he is moving towards you or someone else, maintain your composure. Become neither overexcited nor anxious but stay calm. Exercise "take-it-or-leave-it" attitude.
If the waiter passes you by, you don't become angry or lament your unhappy lot. You accept it and say that you bought tranquility and peace of mind for such a small price.
That's how Stoics think about life and fortune in general. They aim to be grateful for bestowed pleasures without becoming attached to them.