I just finished skimming some of Edward Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” (through some quotes), and have some valuable lessons I want to share with you:
So first of all, I want to use this as an opportunity to extract some of my personal thoughts, ideas, and philosophies— and hopefully to render these ideas as useful to you.
1. Don’t succumb to vice
The first lesson I learned from history was this: vice, the pursuit of pleasure, wealth, carnal delights, pleasure in food, luxury, fashion, is generally the decline of a society.
Of course, we want moderate pleasure in life. I know for myself, I love the pleasure of meeting my friends, enjoying a nice coffee, having a relaxing dinner, and having delicious meat after a long day of hard work.
However, it seems that in the past history of the Roman empire— when society’s values become soft and perverted, the social fabric and moral fiber decreases.
I know for myself, I started to decline when I succumbed to becoming a ‘foodie.’ I wasted so much time, looking for new restaurants to eat at, just to find more pleasure for my tongue and my throat. It was all a waste of time. I would have preferred to eat more simple foods, which often cause less indigestion. And certainly is a lot cheaper. Then more money for supporting my family, for travel, for buying books, and to live a simple life.
I also know that for myself, fashion and luxury is often distracting to me. I waste hours looking at new clothes on fashion websites— wrongly thinking that if I somehow had the perfect outfit, I would have more peace, tranquility, and happiness in my life.
This is why I like to wear the same thing everyday. Less stress on my outfit. Just all black everything. Then more energy and focus to do what is truly important to me— creative work. Writing, reading, synthesizing information, blogging, making videos, making photos— making more meaning in my life.
2. Conquer fear
A lot of individuals in the annals of history lived in fear. Perpetual fear. Fear of attack from neighboring tribes or villages. Fear from starvation. Fear from being made destitute. Fear of freezing to death.
But in life, when we no longer have fear — how much more can we achieve, personally?
I know for myself, I slit the throat of the serpent of fear. I am no longer a slave to fear. And that has helped me flourish creatively. It has helped me pursue more virtue in my life, to become less selfish, and more generous.
I know I have the basic necessities of life:
- Freedom from hunger (I eat eggs and bacon)
- Freedom from thirst (I have water and coffee)
- Freedom from freezing to death (I have a basic apartment and have warm clothes)
Beyond this— what do I have to fear?
I don’t fear death. When it comes, it will come. I am lucky enough to live in a world where I don’t fear my life on a daily basis. I don’t fear genocide, religious persecution, or any other fears that millions in the world suffer from. For that, I am very grateful to be an American.
So if I don’t have fear of death, or fear of judgement of others— I can dedicate my entire fabric of my being to help uplift and motivate others.
Just give me a laptop, a wifi connection, and a lot of coffee— and I can move mountains.
I can write and share information about photography. About art. About life, love, and wisdom.
If you didn’t have fears in life— how much more could you accomplish?
3. Hustle forever
Lastly, I need to remind myself— not to become soft. To always stay strong— mentally, financially, and physically. To take my creative work to the next level. That even if I accomplish some success in life, to keep on hustling, and working hard to improve the existence of others.
As Dr. Dre says:
I’m rich as fuck, but guess what, I’m back to work.
Dr. Dre is worth around $700 million. Yet everyday, he still hustles, 365 days a year, 24/7, to create music which uplifts his soul— and the soul of others.
So as a reminder to myself— not to succumb to weakness. To not submit to envy or jealousy— the weakest emotion there is. To not be petty. To not get distracted by websites, blogs, gadgets, clothes, cars, and other material things or distractions.
To stay focused, like a laser. To know that also in life, the only thing guaranteed for us is death.
One passage that stuck with me from Edward Gibbons goes something like this (I’m just saying this off the top of my head):
Over 600 years, there were 70 emperors. All whose vain pursuits, glories, just became a footnote in the annals of history. That all their vain hopes, dreams, and glories were fleeting— that turned into dust.
I can be the emperor of the whole world. I can have thousands of pounds of gold. I can have billions, if not trillions of dollars. Yet no matter how rich, powerful, or influential I have— the tomb is the only fate that I will share with all these emperors from the past.
What lasts? Virtue. Doing good works. Good deeds. Helping uplift others. Helping empower others. To be remembered as being a good soul, that devoted his entire being to the rest of humankind.
Thank you Edward Gibbons for your history of the fall of the Roman empire. I hope that I will make sure that I don’t let my personal empire fall, to remain virtuous, strong, and invincible.