Letters from a Stoic 22 – Summary and Key Takeaways

         In letters from a stoic 22, Lucilius seems to be holding on his office as a procurator. In letter 19 Seneca has advised him to retire from office and no longer chase other pursuits. In this letter the wise old man gave Lucilius a blueprint on how to completely withdraw himself away from the highly colored occupation. Lucilius and Seneca are both high profiled men in Ancient Rome. To be sure, it’s hard to relinquish power, fame, and wealth when you have possessed them for a very long period of time. We all see these politicians who would do everything to cling in power. 

        “You must be not only present in the body, but watchful in mind, if you would avail yourself of the fleeting opportunity. Accordingly, look about you for the opportunity; if you see it, grasp it, and with all your energy and with all your strength devote yourself to this task—to rid yourself of those business duties.” , advised Seneca. Basically what he is saying is to always check Lucilius’ compulsion and thoughts. When we are trying to stay away from a strong desire, the first thing to do is to be aware when the desire kicks in and use all our willpower not to be swayed away. Complete withdrawal is necessary. In other words you can’t allow yourself even the slightest indulgence because it will only make you wanting more that you have wanted before. Seneca told Lucilius that to retire means to absolutely withdraw from office that used to give him pleasure and status.

        In the last part of the letter, Seneca talks about what the Stoics have always like to address – death. He talked about it in letter 4. For most of us, death comes with a lot of emotions and that’s natural. But Seneca and the stoics give us a consoling argument that we should care less about leaving this world.  “A man has caught the message of wisdom, if he can die as free from care as he was at birth” Life can be taken from us at any given time. We cannot control death and there should less worry about it. Fearing death only robs us the chance to enjoy the present moment. What we can control is being a good person. “ Men do not care how nobly they live, but only how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man’s power to live long. “

*****   Letters from a Stoic Key Takeaways is a collection of short key takeaways from the letters sent by Seneca to Lucilius. Read each letter’s key takeways here .

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