A Slave To Fewer Things

On an ordinary afternoon in 1949, the physicist Richard Feynman was going about his business as he felt a pull to have a drink. Not an intense craving by any means, but still it was a disconcerting desire for some alcohol. On the spot, Feynman gave up drinking right then and there. He didn’t want anything to have that kind of power over him.

The Stoics were big on the idea quitting cold turkey. They were big on quitting anything that had a pull over us. “Show me a man who isn’t a slave,” Seneca demanded, pointing out that even slave owners were chained to the responsibilities of the institution of slavery. The first step, he said, was to pull yourself out of the ignorance of your dependency, whatever it happen to be. Then you need to get clean—get clean from your mistress, from your addiction to work, from your lust for power, whatever. And not every pull seems so severe. In the modern era, we might be hooked on cigarettes or soda, likes on social media or watching cable news.

If you feel these things ruling your life, you have to quit. Quit cold turkey. Be a slave to fewer things. Get free.

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