The great stoic philosopher, Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger, usually known as Seneca, was born in Cordoba in Hispania, and raised in Rome, where he was trained in rhetoric and philosophy.
It is true that Seneca was very wealthy, indeed one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Rome. But, this didn’t change his stoic philosophy. His books “Letters from a Stoic” and “On the Shortness of Life” is considered as one of the most influential books for stoicism.
Here are four important lessons or exercises that we can use on our daily life:
Do Not Be a Slave of Your Wealth
Seneca was one of the wealthiest and most influential man of the Rome. He was ready to use his wealth but was never dependent on it. He was the master but not the salve of it.
Seneca discusses about riches quoting,
“For the wise man does not consider himself unworthy of any gifts from Fortune’s hands: he does not love wealth but he would rather have it; he does not admit into his heart but into his home; and what wealth is his he does not reject but keeps, wishing it to supply greater scope for him to practice his virtue.”
Furthermore, Seneca says:
“It is not the man who has too little that is poor, but the one who craves for more.”
Live Every Day As If It Were Your Last
As stoicism talks about death and meditating on mortality a lot and so does Seneca. He once said:
“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.”
He also claims that death is not the future event; all of the death is already gone; the time passed is owned by death. He tells that death doesn’t make life pointless, death makes life worth living. He adds:
“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”
Theory might look good, but nothing surpasses action. Seneca once said:
“The duty and proof in life are in action”
Words become works, he said.
“We shall learn them so that words may turn into deeds.”
Works is what get counted not the words.
Live For Others, But Seek Your Own Applause
“You must live for your neighbor, if you would live for yourself.”
The purpose of life is to help empower other. He once said that happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presence but even when he is in their thoughts. Seneca claims we must treat others lie we treat ourselves. He goes on to say:
“There is no such thing as good or bad fortune for the individual; we live in common.”
Seneca also emphasized on appreciating on our deeds. He said:
“Be your own spectator; seek your own applause.”
Craving for other people’s opinion is not worth living. We need to look ourselves in a mirror. “Put aside the opinion of the world, it is always wavering”, he said.
Thank you, Seneca, for the invaluable lessons. Even though this was written more than 2000 years ago, they are still resonating today