In letters from a stoic 50, Seneca begins with his usual reminder of the importance of improving oneself every day. He further adds that faults cannot be attributed to external circumstances, only to ourselves. “For what else are you busied with except improving yourself every day, laying aside some error, and coming to understand that the faults which you attribute to circumstances are in yourself?”
In the next part of the letter, he narrated the story of Harpaste who become blinded with his vices and said how we too can be vulnerable to not seeing our shortcomings. Nonetheless, Seneca said we can always cure our vices and the sooner we do it the better. “To tell the truth, even the work is not great, if only, as I said, we begin to mould and reconstruct our souls before they are hardened by sin. But I do not despair even of a hardened sinner.” He argues, even the evilest of man can be cured because the soul is “pliable like liquid” and “adaptable like air”.
Interestingly, Seneca said once we acquire virtues they are going to stay. I think it’s because virtues are nothing but good habits that once ingrained in our soul, it’s hard to remove them. He said the real challenge is when we are just starting to incorporate virtues in our lives “because it is characteristic of a weak and diseased mind to fear that which is unfamiliar.” Seneca said in the beginning the mind must be “forced” to learn virtues but will it be worth it in the long run.
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