If there’s one thing reading philosophy will teach you, it’s that the human experience today is really close to the human experience thousands of years ago.
The politics, the rich vs. the poor, leadership, the ways we suffer, everything. In school, when we’re taught a ruler from a distant time period got stabbed in the back, we seem to make no connection to today. It sounds like a fairy tale and we treat it like one. The lessons are abundant but lost. To make matters worst, the teacher moves on as if all that is there is a shallow stream when in truth, it’s a deep lake.
Below is a quote from Seneca (5 BC – AD 65), On the Shortness of Life.
Why do we complain about nature? She has acted kindly: life is long if you know how to use it. But one man is gripped by insatiable greed, another by a laborious dedication to useless tasks. One man is soaked in wine, another sluggish with idleness. One man is worn out by political ambition, which is always at the mercy of the judgement of others. Another through hope of profit is driven headlong over all lands and seas by the greed of trading. Some are tormented by a passion for army life, always intent on inflicting dangers on others or anxious about danger to themselves.
In a word, run through them all, from lowest to highest: one calls for legal assistance, another comes to help; one is on trial, another defends him, another gives a judgment; no one makes his claim to himself, but each is exploited for another’s sake.
Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds like it was written today. It shows you how many of the problems we presently face are the same ones we use to face, despite all the progress we’ve collectively made. Presently, isn’t there still an abundance of people dedicated to useless tasks? Alcoholics? People worn out by political ambitions? Aren’t people in politics still always at the mercy of the judgement from others?
And interestingly, how often does our society question those “tormented by a passion for army life”? We don’t, not even in 2017. But Seneca did, ~2000 years ago.
It sounds more like a game of what to avoid when you plainly see history repeat itself today.
What else can we learn from people who have lived vastly different lives from our own?