Letters from a Stoic 23 – Summary and Key Takeaways

            In letters from stoic 23, Seneca talks about true joy. First, true joy is constant – meaning it should be accessed under all circumstances. It letters 5, the wise old man discourage Lucilius from clinging to any kind of hope. Hope is not true joy, Seneca said. While it may lift our spirit, it’s only momentarily and will only wind us down in the long run for the eventual fall. Another joy that is short-lived is pleasure derived from our body senses. Aside from it is short-lived, it’s also the most dangerous kind of joy because it can trap us to a vicious cycle and we can become prisoners of our own pleasures. Seneca captures addiction in a few sentences “ The frail body… involves us in vain pleasures, short-lived, and soon to be regretted, which, unless they are reined in by extreme self-control, will be transformed into the opposite. This is what I mean: pleasure, unless it has been kept within bounds, tends to rush headlong into the abyss of sorrow.” We are naturally pleasure-seeking creatures. The danger happens if we don’t constantly check our pleasure. That’s why the Stoics always wanted us to practice temperance, one of the four cardinal virtues. 

            Second, true joy can only be accessed from within. What that means is that happiness can be found from our thoughts and perceptions – the stories we tell ourselves not from the actual event and what other people say. This goes back to the concept of the dichotomy of control which the Stoics are popularly known. They want us to build self-reliance and should not derive our happiness from the externals. “cast aside and trample under foot all the things that glitter outwardly and are held out to you by another or as obtainable from another; look toward the true good, and rejoice only in that which comes from your own store. “

              In the last part of the letter. Seneca talks briefly about preparing for death. The Stoics wanted us to reflect on death on a regularly so that we will always treasure every minute we have in our grasp. Therefore, lets us aim only the things that give us true joy. This is how we truly start beginning to live which he said to close this letter. 

*****   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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