Letter X — On living to oneself , from “Letters from a stoic”

(Summary of individual letters from “the letter from a stoic” by Seneca)

Seneca categorizes people into two groups — the kind who are “thoughtless” and the ones who are not.

According to Seneca a “throughtless” man must not be left alone, “In such cases he only plans folly, and heaps up future dangers for himself or for others; he brings into play his base desires; the mind displays what fear or shame used to repress; it whets his boldness, stirs his passions, and goads his anger.”

But Seneca believes Lucilius, the person he is writing the letter to can be trusted to be alone with himself. Seneca comes to this conclusion by something Lucilius had talked about previously, the details are not available in the letter.

The interesting part in this letter comes in the last paragraph — “But how foolish men are now! They whisper the basest of prayers to heaven; but if anyone listens, they are silent at once. That which they are unwilling for men to know, they communicate to God. Do you not think, then, that some such wholesome advice as this could be given you: ‘Live among men as if God beheld you; speak with God as if men were listening’? Farewell”

My take on this last section — Even when you are alone, think and act as if your loved ones are around you. The mind is like a beast, with you holding it on a leash. If you do not train it well, you will find yourself being dragged all around. Prepare your mind to be calm and settled at all times. Also train your mind to settle down between actions and for various scenarios.

Invariable you will find the mind take off without permission. Train yourself to recognize the signs when this happens (not an easy task in itself) and then get it to settle down again.

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