letters from a stoic by seneca

#34 – letters from a stoic by seneca

3 things to think about

1. Wisdom.

“We have good reason to say: ‘I trust this finds you in pursuit of wisdom.”

I hardly use this word. Nor do I hear others use it often.


Seneca says “no one can lead a happy life… without the pursuit of wisdom.”

Wisdom needs to be pursued. It is not given to us. We can find it through our own efforts and we don’t have to get it from others. Wisdom is found within ourselves.

The study of wisdom is philosophy. Philosophy instructs our minds.

“(philosophy) shows us what are real and what are only apparent evils. She strips men’s minds of empty thinking, bestows a greatness that is solid and administers a check to greatness where it is puffed up and all an empty show; she sees that we are left in no doubt about the difference between what is great and what is bloated.”

“the difference between what is great and what is bloated” – i like it.

The bloated life is not worth pursuing.

2. Fortune

“Avoid,’ I cry, ‘whatever is approved of by the mob, and things that are the gift of chance.”

“…gifts which chance brings our way are not to be regarded as possessions”

“What fortune has made yours is not your own.”

What are the gifts that Fortune bring us?

Health, wealth, friendship, a good name.

These are not ours to own and can be taken away from us.

“We are at the mercy of the sudden and the unforeseeable.”

What does the wise person do?

To be self-contented.

“The supreme ideal does not call for any external aids. It is homegrown, wholly self-developed. Once it starts looking outside itself for any part of itself it is on the way to being dominated by fortune.”

“All my possessions,’ he said, ‘are with me’, meaning by this the qualities of a just, a good and an enlightened character, and indeed the very fact of not regarding as valuable anything that is capable of being taken away”

“All my possessions are with me” – the finest minimalism.

“…how pleasant it is to ask for nothing, how splendid it is to be complete and be independent of fortune.”

Freedom from Fortune.

3. Death

“Each day, too, acquire something which will help you to face poverty, or death, and other ills as well. After running over a lot of different thoughts, pick out one to be digested thoroughly that day.”

“Rehearse death.’ To say this is to tell a person to rehearse his freedom. A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. He is above, or at any rate beyond the reach of, all political powers. What are prisons, warders, bars to him? He has an open door. There is but one chain holding us in fetters, and that is our love of life”

“there are two classes of things attracting or repelling us. We are attracted by wealth, pleasures, good looks, political advancement and various other welcoming and enticing prospects: we are repelled by exertion, death, pain, disgrace and limited means. It follows that we need to train ourselves not to crave for the former and not to be afraid of the latter. Let us fight the battle the other way round – retreat from the things that attract us and rouse ourselves to meet the things that actually attack us”

“The man, though, whom you should admire and imitate is the one who finds it a joy to live and in spite of that is not reluctant to die.” – live joyfully, die willingly.

Don’t be a slave to life.

Mark Zuckerberg inspired me to start an annual personal project – read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. Subscribe to my newsletter.

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