In my previous post, “An Accident on the Wheel of Fortune,” I mentioned a book that plays a significant part in the way I start each day. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman comprises 365 brief daily meditations based on the philosophy of Stoicism, each with an epigraph from one of its ancient Roman practitioners. Yesterday, in my haste to pour out my feelings about accident and fate and gratitude, I neglected to read the daily meditation. Returning to it today, I find that its focus was—as usual—perfectly attuned to that of my own thoughts.
It begins with a delightful quote from Seneca the Younger: “It’s a disgrace for an old person . . . to have only the knowledge carried in his textbooks. Zeno said this . . . What do YOU say? Cleanthes said that . . . What do YOU say? How long will you be compelled by the claims of another? Take charge and stake your own claim—something posterity will carry in its notebook.” The editors’ explication ends with this advice (a version of which I say to each student who crosses the threshold of my English 111 classes): “Your own experiences have value. You have accumulated your own wisdom too. Stake your claim. Put something down for the ages—in words and also in example.”
I do indeed have a tendency to pepper my writings with quotations and works of art and hyperlinks. But I stumbled through 1600+ (mostly original) words yesterday in order to follow precisely the advice of Seneca et al. That is, I wanted to share some of the wisdom I have attained in the last eight tumultuous weeks. I’m not convinced that posterity will even know about my words, much less carry them around in its (virtual) notebook. But I do hope that my meager and belated insights about the value of seizing each day—and the imperative to have and express gratitude—have given my readers something to ponder on these frigid late-December days. That’s all a wordsmith like me—in this age of mass graphomania—can hope for.