After a completely unjarring holiday montage — a week and a half of life-disrupting partying, excessive consumption, and sleep deprivation — it’s time to re-establish some routines. I fell off the wagon a bit with my journaling, missing a few days this week and neglecting my blog as well. But there are a few things that I haven’t been setting aside, and one is reading Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic — damn, that book is just fantastic, has been eerily timely, and filled with a lot of sweet nuggets to think on, juxtaposition to my life, and apply.
Today was no exception when he exhorted his friend Lucilius in Letter XVI:
“…no one can lead a happy life, or even one that is bearable, without the pursuit of wisdom, and that the perfection of wisdom is what makes the happy life, although even the beginnings of wisdom make life bearable. Yet this conviction, clear as it is, needs to be strengthened and given deeper roots through daily reflection;”
Timely considering that I’d not journaled the past few weeks (reflected) and haven’t given myself the usual lot to think on wisdom and feeding on it to help sustain me. I know that returning to a state of depression, anger, frustration — it’s all just around the corner if I do not maintain the disciplines that I’ve learned from Stoicism, from the likes of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. Focus solely on the things that are directly in your control, seek hard after wisdom and virtue, reflect daily by journaling, work hard to become a better version of yourself, and because we will die and life is finite, live it out to its fullest.
I’m reminded frequently through Seneca’s writings that there is no point that you’ll reach a state of perfection, or a place where you’re just done. He continues on later in the letter saying,
“…at this stage, although I have great hopes of you, I do not yet feel quite confident about you. And I should like you to adopt the same attitude: you’ve no grounds for forming a ready, hasty belief in yourself. Carry out a searching analysis and close scrutiny of yourself in all sorts of different lights. Consider above all else whether you’ve advanced in philosophy or just in actual years.”
Or in other words, you’re not out of the woods yet! I’ve got a pretty good handle on Stoicism, what its core concepts are, and have applied them all pretty liberally across my life, but I know myself all too well — the minute I begin to relax my standards and let my guard down, it won’t take long before my old habits or old behaviors creep back in. Perhaps after practicing and applying philosophy to my life for a few years and with dedication, I might be at a place that doesn’t require such rigid vigilance. Maybe.
I’ve seen this parallel drawn in my music, too. You never really are finished becoming the better version of you and there’s always more to be done. In the case of my music, there are always areas to grow, places to improve upon, changes that can be made. After being frustrated with clipping issues on certain weaker devices (like phones, built-in laptop speakers, etc.), I decided that I needed to figure out what I have to start doing differently.
I found a couple really helpful videos on Youtube involving EQing for acoustic guitar and one on some basic mastering techniques. I’m really grateful that there are people out there sharing their knowledge and their skills with others freely like this and makes me feel a little better about sharing my music freely as well, hoping that it helps others feel the same sense of peace and tranquility that I get from creating it. Although if I’m honest, the process of EQing my acoustic guitar has been more frustrating than it has been relaxing — dealing with tone issues, timing, and getting the mix just right so that everything has its place and is well-balanced. It’s clear that I have a lot to learn yet, and I’m happy to learn it. Learning about notch filtering with subtractive EQing has opened up the world to me — and that video I mentioned about EQing for the guitar was probably the best demonstration I’ve seen for understanding how to find and reduce problematic noises in a given track.
Going back to my original train of thought on this post, though, it’s becoming more and more clear to me the daily pursuit and the discipline that’s required of me to maintain and strengthen wisdom’s influence on my life. I really like what Seneca said — even the beginning of wisdom makes life bearable, that just a short period of time spent reading or seeking out wisdom and reflecting on it has the ability to take the edge off of what life dishes out. How much more if it were exercised and perfected daily?
Keep trying. Keep walking. Keep seeking and applying wisdom. Continue living virtuously. Be a better version of yourself today. Be mindful and reflect often. Journal and think on all these things daily.