Emails from a modern Stoic

There are so many good lessons to take away from the Stoic philosophy. Unfortunately they are some times obscured by the time they were written in. Hard to believe there is a disconnect between the 3rd century BC and now.

Many of my friends and colleague’s know of my interest (obsession) with Stoicism. It is that interest that has inspired me to re-write Seneca’s ‘Letters from a Stoic’.

There are so many good lessons to take away from the Stoic philosophy. Unfortunately they are some times obscured by the time they were written in. Hard to believe there is a disconnect between the 3rd century BC and now.

It is with that in mind I have decided to share ‘Emails from a modern Stoic’. The same lessons available to you right now, just written in the context of now, 2020. I hope you enjoy the reworked version of this amazing philosophy. 

So I would like to invite you to join me on this journey, sign up now and start recieving ‘Emails from a modern Stoic’.

Life is very short and anzious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.

Seneca

Compare the letter vs. email

Here is an example of Seneca’s letter and my email that I would like to share with you. One of over 100 letters.

Emails from a modern Stoic – Email 2

JUDGING from what you tell me, what I read on Facebook, LinkedIn and from what I hear, I feel that you show great promise. You haven’t moved around much at all. Lots of moving around is symptomatic of mental health issues, not that I can site a peer reviewed study to back that up, it’s just an opinion.

Based on the way I think, an indicator of a well ordered mind is a persons ability to stop just where they are and pass some time in their own company.  

The internet has made this hard. I would like to say, make sure you don’t jump around from one thing to the other,  don’t consume information without a plan or purpose, in regards to the blogs you have mentioned and the influencers you are following. 

Following, liking and listening to so many different things of every description. You should be extending your stay among authors whose genius is unquestionable, backed by research and evidence. Taking joy and lessens from them if you wish to gain anything from what you consume, that will result in useful thoughts.

To be shallow across everything is to be nowhere. People who spend their whole life travelling abroad end up having plenty of places where they can find hospitality but no real friendships.  

The same can be said for people who never set about acquiring a deep understanding of a topic, but skip from one to another, taking shallow visits to them all. 

Food that is vomited up as soon as it is eaten is not assimilated into the body and does not do one any good; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent changes of treatment; a wound will not heal if you continuously pick the scab; a plant which is frequently moved never grows strong. 

Nothing is so useful that it can be of any service by simply reading the headlines or scrolling past it. A multitude of blogs, social platforms and news sites ultimately get in your way. So if you are unable to read all the articles you have liked, bookmarks you have saved, tabs you have open in your browser, let alone all the books in your book shelf. Consider, you already have enough, just with the physical books you have kept over the years.

I get it, you might say “but I feel like going to YouTube, then TikTok, then Twitter, then Facebook”. Opening different platforms, for different content at different times. My retort will be: tasting one dish after another is the sign of a fussy stomach, and where the foods are dissimilar and diverse in range they lead to contamination of the system, not nutrition. So always read well-tried authors and content, and if at any moment you find yourself wanting a change from a particular piece of information, go back to what you have read before. 

It could also be worth while setting the why for what you read. Aim to consume a post, blog or podcast each day that will help you to face the the challenging world we live in. What would it mean to have such strong mental health that if you faced loosing your job, being on Government benefits or be faced with death because you caught Covid-19 or other sicknesses. Think about it when you wake up, what would give you the most fortitude to face the day, pick the topic to be consumed thoroughly that day. I do this. I think about all my current obsessions, all the things I am trying to learn and out of all the stuff I have been consuming, I pick one theme, idea or topic. That becomes the central focus for my day. Be it something to read or a technique to apply. 

My thought for today I found in Tony Robbin’s (yes, I actually read multiple gurus content (but all in the context of personal development) – by way of observation on what others are saying, not to shift away from the way I think things should be done!). 

He suggests “starting the day with gratitude”. He says it’s the best way to start the day. This is not so far of the NLP idea where we focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. Or how a Stoic might say it “It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more”. 

What difference does it make, how much you have in your bank account, the size of your deck or how many followers you have, your annual salary, the car you have, the title you hold at work, if what you are after is some one else’s goal, some content produces perception of what makes you successful. Especially if you are focused on what you have yet to get, instead of what you have already.

You just have to got on Instagram to see a meme about what ‘success’ or ‘wealth’ is (to others). When in reality, wealth and success can easily be described and then attained, all in a way that won’t leave you wanting more. All it takes are two steps:  “First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.”

Letters from a Stoic – Letter II

JUDGING from what you tell me and from what I hear, I feel that you show great
promise. You do not tear from place to place and unsettle yourself with one move after another.
Restlessness of that sort is symptomatic of a sick mind.

Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a
better proof of a well ordered mind than a man‟s ability to stop just where he is and pass some
time in his own company.

Be careful, however, that there is no element of discursiveness and desultoriness about
this reading you refer to, this reading of many different authors and books of every description.

You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving
constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find a
lasting place in your mind. To be everywhere is to be nowhere.

People who spend their whole life travelling abroad end up having plenty of places where they can find hospitality but no real friendships. The same must needs be the case with people who never set about acquiring an intimate acquaintanceship with any one great writer, but skip from one to another, paying flying
visits to them all.

Food that is vomited up as soon as it is eaten is not assimilated into the body and does not do one any good; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent changes of treatment; a wound will not heal over if it is being made the subject of experiments with different
ointments; a plant which is frequently moved never grows strong.

Nothing is so useful that it can be of any service in the mere passing. A multitude of books only gets in one‟s way. So if you are unable to read all the books in your possession, you have enough when you have all the books you are able to read. And if you say, “But I feel like opening different books at different times‟,
my answer will be this: tasting one dish after another is the sign of a fussy stomach, and where
the foods are dissimilar and diverse in range they lead to contamination of the system, not
nutrition.

So always read well-tried authors, and if at any moment you find yourself wanting a
change from a particular author, go back to ones you have read before.

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. This is what I do myself; out of the many bits I have been reading I, lay hold of one.

My thought for today is something which I found in Epicurus (yes, I actually make a practice of
going over to the enemy’s camp – by way of reconnaissance, not as a deserter!). “A cheerful
poverty”, he says, “is an honourable state”. But if it is cheerful it is not poverty at all. It is not the
man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.

What difference does it make how much there is laid away in a man’s safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another’s and only
counts what he has yet to get, never what he has already.

You ask what is the proper limit to a person’s wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.