Seneca, the ancient Stoic philosopher, once said, “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”
Seneca the Younger, as he was known, was a contemporary of the Apostle Paul. He was Nero’s tutor and his brother makes an appearance in Acts 18. People charged Paul with turning others from the true worship of God. Seneca’s brother, Gallio, was to be Paul’s judge.
For many years, tradition held that Paul and Seneca exchanged cordial letters. Most people now consider the letters to be inauthentic. But they do offer a chance to reflect. Seneca was one of the most highly regarded men of his time. His moral teachings often paralleled those of Jesus. Apparently, many Christians were quick to include him as one of “our own.”
History has often judged Seneca as someone who could talk the talk but not walk the walk. While he talked a good game about living a moral and virtuous life, he didn’t live up to it. I don’t know enough about him to make that distinction. I have, however, heard others say he was a work in progress. That if you pay attention to his later years, you can tell he wised up and started following his own stoic advice.
Again, I can’t speak to the historical validity of that. But I can certainly see it play out.
We all have to learn what it means to be fully alive, fully human. It takes some of us a while to even know what that means. So, how do we do that?
This week I pulled a book from my Half Price Books stack. No, these aren’t books I’m taking to sell. It’s a stack I’ve bought that I haven’t gotten around to yet. The book is about meditation and it took all but a few paragraphs to get me thinking. Here is the line that connects meditation to learning to be fully human: One of the steps in meditation is learning how not to take our thoughts for granted.
In a way, I see that playing out in Proverbs 30.
You may recall I wrote about this chapter yesterday. It’s written by someone who has determined his life hasn’t been all he wanted it to be. Now, he has turned to God’s wisdom. The rest of the chapter, what we read today, are all observations he has made in life.
In a few short paragraphs, the writer calls to mind what he has seen in life regarding slaves, kings, fools, unloved women, maids, ants, badgers, locusts, lizards and a variety of other animals. Oh, and milk.
What do those all have in common?
Nothing really, except these experiences become a part of the writer’s thoughts. He noticed that he noticed more of God’s world. He understood there were lessons to learn by observing life. That’s a great reminder for our busy world. We know what it means to stop and smell the roses. Maybe learning how to live also means to slow down and watch the ants.