Stoic Letters
Published in

Stoic Letters

The benefits of embracing your fate — Letter 37

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”
Gautama Buddha, Sayings Of Buddha

In this publication I translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In letter 37, he discusses what it takes to be a good person, why you shouldn’t fear death and the power of self-control.

Practice your virtues

In this letter I want to remind you about his oath to be a good man. From the Stoic perspective, to be a good person means to practice your virtues. These are:

  1. Wisdom,
  2. Morality,
  3. Courage, and
  4. Moderation.

Embrace fate

I also want to remind you about an important Stoic concept — embracing fate.

This control we think we have over our lives and our destinies … it’s an illusion. We think we’re in control but we’re really not. Do we control all the people around us who affect our lives so intimately? Do we control the overwhelming power of nature? There’s so much out of our control that what we think is control is really an illusion.

By stepping back and allowing things to happen means things will take care of themselves, and your needs will also be met. And you’ve done no work.

You have less stress, less to worry about. Imagine allowing things to happen naturally, and things work out, and all you did was smile and watch. You don’t have to worry about shaping things, about controlling something that doesn’t want to be controlled. You don’t have to push, and fix leaks, and put out fires. You just let things work on their own. They happen.

Things will surprise you. Let’s say you’re allowing something to happen. You might want it to go a certain way, to a certain outcome. That’s your goal. But what if you let go of this idea? What if you say, “I don’t know what will happen.” What if you say, “Let’s see what happens.” Then things will happen, but not the way you planned. The outcome might be completely different than what you’d hoped for. But it can still be great, just different. It might even be wonderful, and surprising. Surprises are good, if we accept that things always change and that change is good.

You learn how things work. Instead of trying to make things work the way you want them to work, just watch them work. You’ll learn much more about human nature, about the nature of the world, as you see things work without you controlling it. It might change you.
That’s all very good, Leo, you’re thinking. But that won’t put the food on my table.

Maybe you’re right. And so, don’t let me stop you from what you need to do. Carry on. I’ll just sit back and watch.

The inevitable fate of death

And talking about fate, what do you think when you see a gladiator who lowers their sword to ask pity for the crowd to spare them from death? For me, when your time arrives we should not beg for your life.

Meditate for a moment on death. This might sound gruesome and depressing, but in truth, it’s liberating and incredibly motivating. If you knew that you only had a month to live, you’d cut out all the distractions and get down to what’s truly important to you. What if you only had a year to live? What if you had five years? What would change for you?

It could also just be as simple as remembering that this night, our days are diminished by one. For me, it’s as simple as remembering:

I will die, inevitably. This is just something to accept, and is a liberation once I’ve practiced that acceptance.

My days are limited. What do I want to do with them?

I could die right now. How do I want to live, how do I want to treat others, so that I can feel peace if I died in the next moment?

It helps me to be better to others, because that’s how I want to live. And it helps me to focus on the meaningful work I care most deeply about, because I know that’s more important than my own comfort and distractions.

The power of self-control

Finally, I want to talk about self-control. The way you can control your impulses is through the repeated use of reason. A craftsman masters his trade by repeated practice, with care and continual learning, with devotion to the purpose.

It takes the same kinds of things to master the craft of reason:

  • Repeated practice
  • Single-minded devotion to the purpose
  • Continual learning
  • Care

Take care.

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

--

--

--

In this publication I interpret Letters From a Stoic by Seneca into modern English.

Recommended from Medium

Being Bullied? Or Are You the Bully?

A Success Formula For Those Who Refuse To Give Up On Their Dreams

Here are the Five principles of Total Quality Management apply in my Real-life

Want Big Success? Make PROGRESS Your Most Important Priority

Why You ‘Must’ Get Rid of the People Who Don’t Respect You

lost.

40 AFFIRMATIONS FOR POSITIVE THINKING

By Fully Embracing Awkward Situations, You’ll Look Far More Confident Than Anyone

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Robert Thompson

Robert Thompson

Big ideas and important articles. Writing to help you make sense of the world. And cope with being human.

More from Medium

In Gut we trust.

“If you don’t know it, you won’t love it”

Watch Out For the Dunning Kruger Effect

How long can a person live?