Seneca versus Wall Street

I’ve been doing some complementary reading. On one side, Wall Street Shoeshine Boy, which is about greed, depravity, competition, materialism, and drug abuse. On the other, the writings of Seneca and Epictetus. Wall Street looks even worse when compared so closely to the Stoic belief that virtue is the only good.

When Seneca was ordered to commit suicide by Nero, he first cut arteries in his arms and legs, but he had a clotting disorder, so that didn’t kill him. Then he drank poison, but that didn’t do the trick either, so he finally had himself carried to a steam room where he died of a heatstroke. All the while, he was exhorting his followers to remember the things he had taught them. Admiral James Stockdale spent eight years in the “Hanoi Hilton” after breaking his leg when he parachuted from a plane. He was nearly starved, often tortured, and kept in solitary confinement for four years. The writings of Epictetus enabled him to survive.

At 58, with all the mistakes of the past, how might I live better? How might I take life more seriously, not in a morose way but an intelligent way. First, I could be more polite. Am I rude then? No, I’m not rude, but I could go to greater pains to be nice. I could open more doors for more people. I could stand aside and let others go first. I could talk less about me, and ask people more about themselves. I could judge less harshly. I could try harder to see the other person’s viewpoint. I could show respect even when I’m not being treated respectfully.