In letters from a stoic 27, Seneca asked Lucilius to pursue virtue. One of the fundamental stoic teachings is that virtue is the only absolute good and is sufficient to make us happy. The Stoics said this repeatedly. In this letter, Seneca describes virtue. “Cast about rather for some good which will abide. But there can be no such good except as the soul discovers it for itself within itself. Virtue alone affords everlasting and peace-giving joy; even if some obstacle arise, it is but like an intervening cloud, which floats beneath the sun but never prevails against it.” Virtue is our ultimate weapon against the difficulties and challenges of life. Thought life is so overwhelming and feel like not continuing anymore? Take courage. Caught in a vicious cycle of pleasures and withdrawals? Take temperance. Feel unhappy? Maybe you are taking the wrong perspective then take wisdom. Are you stressed with a certain dilemma? Just listen to your heart. Do what’s right. Choose justice. The list goes on. These are some of the cases where you can find strength and happiness with the four cardinal virtues of Stoicism.
In the next part of the letter, Seneca narrated the story of Calvisius Sabinus who pays premium prices for highly paid slaves to help him memorize verses and maxims he likes to repeat for himself. The man seems to be extremely wealthy but his mind is weak and has a faulty memory. Seneca talked about him to stress the importance of a sound mind. He has been telling Lucilius to prioritize the improvement of mind over the body. Once a sound mind is taken away it’s hard to bring it back. “No man is able to borrow or buy a sound mind; in fact, as it seems to me, even though sound minds were for sale, they would not find buyers.”
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