The Stoic Jew

Seneca Letter #2 - On Doing Nothing (Part 2 of 4) Rabbi Moskowitz's Take

February 03, 2021 Rabbi Matt Schneeweiss Season 3 Episode 3
The Stoic Jew
Seneca Letter #2 - On Doing Nothing (Part 2 of 4) Rabbi Moskowitz's Take
Show Notes

Seneca – Letter #2
Judging by what you write me, and by what I hear, I am forming a good opinion regarding your future. You do not run hither and thither and distract yourself by changing your abode; for such restlessness is the sign of a disordered spirit. The primary indication, to my thinking, of a well-ordered mind is a man’s ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company.
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Rabbi Moskowitz – transcript from an unknown shiur

You shouldn't be a goal-oriented person. When I say “goal-oriented” I don't mean a practical person. By “goal-oriented” I'm talking about people who are driven to fulfill goals – people who need goals in order to function and to be happy.

These are the types of people who make goals for themselves even when they are on vacation. They make a schedule and a list of things to accomplish while on vacation and tell themselves, “I need to do all of these things.” In reality, a vacation shouldn't be about fulfilling goals. To the contrary, it should be a vacation from goals! 

How can you tell if you are goal-oriented? The test is this: Are you able to just sit and do nothing? Most people can't. If they sit down and try to relax, they start to get antsy. They feel they have to be doing something; they have to accomplish something. If they're not accomplishing something, they feel bad about themselves, like there is something wrong. 

Well, what if there isn't anything to accomplish right now? What if you can't do anything? Or what if nothing needs to be done? Or what if you just need a break? Let's say, for instance, that you only have a certain amount of energy you can put into learning, but then you need a break. When you take the break, is it really necessary to set up another goal for yourself? Or can you say, “I just feel like sitting down and doing nothing for a few hours”? Are you capable of doing that? Most people aren't; most people can't just relax, even if they try. Their conscience puts them in conflict and scolds them, saying, “You're not accomplishing anything! You need to accomplish something!"
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If you have questions, comments, or feedback, I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to contact me at rabbischneeweiss at gmail.
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Stoic texts:
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Letters from a Stoic Master (Seneca)
The Discourses of Epictetus
The Enchiridion (Handbook) of Epictetus
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