Letters from a Stoic 28– Summary and Key Takeaways

            In lessons from a stoic 28, Seneca talks about traveling as a cure for our problems. Some of us turn to travel to forget our problems. While this may work at times, it cannot solve problems that are deeply rooted in our soul. We access our souls through our minds and heart. If we want a long-term solution we need to change ourselves – our thoughts and perception as well as our character. “Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate.” The Stoics have repeatedly said that true joy can only be accessed from within and therefore if we want permanent change we need to look inward. Seneca went further to say. “The person you are matters more than the place to which you go” Anything outside ourselves is only a temporary cure. It gets worse when we numb our problems with external pleasures which can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction. The only long-term solution is a change within and it takes practice.

            In the last part of the letter, Seneca said that if we really wanted to change we need to begin by recognizing our own faults. “knowledge of sin is the beginning of salvation… For he who does not know that he has sinned does not desire correction.” He devised a clever way of recognizing our faults. “prove yourself guilty, hunt up charges against yourself; play the part, first of accuser, then of judge, last of intercessor. At times be harsh with yourself.” In other words we need to first admit that we really did wrong and then hold ourselves accountable. We need to stop blaming other people and life circumstances and turn to ourselves instead.

*****   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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