Letters from a Stoic
I tore this book to pieces. My copy is overflowing with tabs. Seneca was a really interesting figure too. Like Hays said in my interview with him, “not being a tyrant was something he had to work at one day at a time” and often, Seneca lost that battle. He was the Cardinal Richelieu behind Nero. He sat back and enjoyed the spoils of his student who had clearly lost his way—at least Aristotle didn’t profit from Alexander’s lust for power. Nevertheless, the book is profoundly insightful, it calls you to action, and it has that ‘quit your fucking whining—this is life’ attitude that so defines the Roman Stoics.
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I put the quotes into the Quotes section, but here is Seneca on some important topics:
On doing more than consuming:
He should be delivering himself of such sayings, not memorizing them. It is disgraceful that a man who is old or in sight of old age should have wisdom deriving solely from his notebook. ‘Zeno said this.’ And what have you said? ‘Cleanthes said that.’ What have you said? How much longer are you going to serve under others? Assume authority over yourself and utter something that may be handed down to posterity. Produce something from your own resources.
Life’s no soft affair. It’s a long road you’ve started on: you can’t but expect to have slips and knocks and falls, and get tired and openly wish–a lie–for death.
Show me a man who isn’t a slave; one who is a slave to sex, another to money, another to ambition; all are slaves to hope or fear. I could show you a man who has been a Consul who is a slave to his ‘little old woman’, a millionaire who is the slave of a little girl in domestic service. And there is no state of slavery more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed.
On book quotes:
There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with. I shall send you, accordingly, the actual books themselves, and to save you a lot of trouble hunting all over the place for passages likely to be of use to you, I shall mark the passages so that you can turn straight away to the words I approve and admire.
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I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while… do you know if different translations are as differing as, say, those of Meditations?
By which I mean is the translation you link to any better, worse, or different than others?
What llan Bouchard said.. do you have a preference in translation?
I always try and link to the versions that I read. But as a rule, I like the Penguin Classics translations of classic texts. I think Cambell is the guy that wrote this one.