How to raise yourself above social class distinction & elitism ?
Understanding the true nature of Philosophy, as it neither rejects nor selects anyone; its light shines for all, it never looks into pedigrees, & everyone, if traced back to their original sources, springs forth from the divine.
As we step forward in life, out of our origins, between the illustrious & ignoble, we should look, not to the source from which these things come, however, it is towards the goal that we strive.
For although the sum and substance of the happy life is unalloyed freedom from care, yet, the secret of such freedom is, unshaken confidence.
On Philosophy and Pedigrees
You are again insisting to me that you are a nobody, and saying that nature in the first place, and fortune in the second, have treated you too scurvily, and this in spite of the fact that you have it in your power to separate yourself from the crowd and rise to the highest human happiness!
If there is any good in philosophy, it is this, – that it never looks into pedigrees. Everyone, if traced back to their original source, spring from the divine.
You are a Roman knight, and your persistent work promoted you to this class; yet surely there are many to whom the fourteen rows are barred; the senate-chamber is not open to all; the army, too, is scrupulous in choosing those whom it admits to toil and danger. However a noble mind is free to everyone; according to this test, we may all gain distinction.
Socrates was no aristocrat; Cleanthes worked at a well and served as a hired help watering a garden. Philosophy did not find Plato already a nobleman; it made him one. Why then should you despair of becoming able to rank with people like these? They are all your ancestors, if you conduct yourself in a manner worthy of them; and you will do so if you convince yourself at the outset that nobody can outdo you in real nobility.
We have all had the same number of forefathers; there is nobody whose first beginning does not transcend memory. Plato says:
“Every king springs from a race of servants, and every servant has had kings among their ancestors.”
The flight of time, with its vicissitudes, has jumbled all such things together, and Fortune has turned them upside down.
That is the one point to be considered; otherwise, if you hark back to antiquity, every one traces back to a date before which there is nothing.
From the earliest beginnings of the universe to the present time, we have been led forward out of origins that were alternately illustrious and ignoble.
No past life has been lived to lend us glory, and that which has existed before us is not ours; the soul alone renders us noble, and it may rise superior to Fortune out of any earlier condition, no matter what that condition has been.
You should look, not to the source from which these things come, but to the goal towards which they tend.
If there is anything that can make life happy, it is good on its own merits; for it cannot degenerate into evil.
Where, then, lies the mistake, since all people crave the happy life? It is that they regard the means for producing happiness as happiness itself, and, while seeking happiness, they are really fleeing from it.
For although the sum and substance of the happy life is unalloyed freedom from care, and though the secret of such freedom is Unshaken Confidence.
Yet people gather together that which causes worry, and, while travelling life’s treacherous road, not only have burdens to bear, but even draw burdens to themselves; hence they recede further and further from the achievement of that which they seek, and the more effort they expend, the more they hinder themselves and are set back.
Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.