When did Jesus deliver his famous Sermon on the Mount? We don’t know. But we know that Seneca and Jesus were born at roughly the same time and were part of the same massive empire. As far distant as the Mount of Beatitudes was from Rome, the men were thinking and speaking about very similar things.
Certainly Seneca, who wrote so much about the futility of anxiety and fear and the inevitability of death, would have agreed with that famous line from the sermon:
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
Jesus believed that what happened to human beings was more or less up to God. Seneca that it was more or less up to fate. Both agreed—and even used the same word—the logos. The Way. To worry, to think that biting your nails accomplished anything? This was to doubt the logos. This was to break faith, and to abandon the considerable power that God (or the Gods) had already given us: to focus on what was in our control, to take advantage of the free will and the life we do have in this very moment.
This is a two-thousand-year-old, cross-cultural, philosophical, and religious insight. And yet what are most of us wasting our time with today?
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