Seneca on the Blessing and Curse of Contemplation

Seneca on the Blessing and Curse of Contemplation October 8, 2022

We’re a highly intelligent species. To be able to contemplate – what was, what is, and what will be is truly a blessing. Balance, though, is required before the blessing becomes a curse.

I wrote previously on some wisdom on mindfulness and Seneca urging on true happiness being completely present in this moment. To this blessing/curse balance, Seneca offers this gem:

… A mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future… Projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present… it is that foresight, the greatest blessing humanity has been given has been transformed into a curse. Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them they worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of blessings bring us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely.

To contemplate, reflect, and evolve – the best version of ourselves is on offer in this unique ability, thus it truly is a blessing. When this ability runs wild with anxiety and we are distracted what we are called to do or be present in this moment, we sacrifice our opportunity to be our best selves in the present by worrying about the future (or guilting about the past).

An evolutionary and neuroscientific gift for humanity – learning, reflection, and adaption through contemplation – finding peace and presence in this moment and focusing on what we control now – this is our blessing on offer. But letting our highly evolved brains run wild – anxiety, guilt, or any paralysis to the present moment that distracts us from actualizing our best and present self – this is our curse.

Blessing or curse; the choice is ours.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash



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