Chill Out

In Ecclesiastes 12:12, Solomon says, “Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (ca. 4 B.C. to A.D. 65) says the same thing about the mind, and he recommends that for the health of one’s soul one should not to let work and study – serious things – consume everything.

The mind should not be kept continuously at the same pitch of concentration, but given amusing diversions. Socrates did not blush to play with small children; Cato soothed his mind with wine when it was tired from the cares of state…Our minds must relax: they will rise better and keener after a rest. Just as you must not force fertile farmland, as uninterrupted productivity will soon exhaust it, so constant effort will sap our mental vigour, while a short period of rest and relaxation will restore our powers. Unremitting effort leads to a kind of mental dullness and lethargy….We must indulge the mind and from time to time allow it the leisure which is its food and strength. We must go for walks out of doors, so that the mind can be strengthened and invigorated by a clear sky and plenty of fresh air…. – “On Tranquillity of Mind,” in Seneca: Dialogues and Letters, ed. and trans. C.D.N. Costa (New York: Penguin Classics, rep. 2005), pp. 46-47

Sometimes in order to really love the pursuit of wisdom, you just have to chill out for a bit. “Bodily exercise may profit little” (1 Tim. 4:8), but that’s not the same thing as saying it profits nothing.