Letters From a Stoic

These letters have had a profound impact on philosophy and can guide all of us lead a better life.

4 min read

Nothing, to my way of thinking, is better proof of a well ordered mind than a man's ability to just stop where he is and pass some time in his own company.

Read from 'unquestionably genius' people slowly and digest what they say - that way you'll get more out of your reading.

To be everywhere is to be nowhere. Chase two rabbits and catch none. Commit to whatever you are doing.

It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more. What difference does it make how much is laid away in a man's safe, or in his barns, how many head of stock he graces or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another's and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he already has.

But if you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.

Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come.

Be different (ahead, do things RIGHT, disciplined) than others but do not outwardly differentiate yourself too much, otherwise you'd end up alienating others.

"Any man who does not think that what he has is more than ample, is an unhappy man, even if he is the master of the whole world." — Epicurus

Not happy he who thinks himself not so (authorship unknown).

What difference does it make, after all, what your position in life is if you dislike it yourself?

"We need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing" — Epicurus

There is a need, in my view, for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against you won't make the crooked straight.

Memento Mori

Some things you just can't buy with money; health/fitness and wisdom, for example.

To remember is to safeguard something entrusted to your memory, whereas to know, by contrast, is actually to make each item your own, and not to be dependent on some original and be constantly looking to see what the master said.

No one should feel pride in anything that is not his own.

Man's ideal state is realized when he has fulfilled the purpose for which he was born. And what is it that reason demands of him? Something very easy - that he lives in accordance with his own nature. Yet this is turned into something difficult by the madness that is universal among men; we push one another into vices.

Treat your inferiors in the way in which you would like to be treated by your own superiors.

Whatever can happen at any time can happen today.

You want to live - but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying - and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?

As it is with play, so it is with life - what matters is not how long the acting lasts, but how good it is. It is not important at what point you stop.

So do not go out of your way to make your troubles any more tiresome than they are and burden yourself with fretting.

What's the good of dragging up sufferings which are over, of being unhappy now just because you were then?

"In a single day there lies open to men of learning more than there ever does to the unenlightened in the longest of lifetimes." — Posidonius

What really ruins our characters is the fact that none of us looks back over his life. We think about what we are going to do, and only rarely of that, and fail to think about what we have done, yet any plans for the future are dependent on the past.

He [a philosopher] has condemned pleasures an inseparable element of which is subsequent regret, has commended that good things which will always satisfy, and for all to see has made the man who has no need of luck the luckiest man of all, and the man who is master of himself the master of all.

...but virtue only comes to a character which has been thoroughly schooled and trained and brought to a pinch of perfection by unremitting practice. We are born for it, but not with it. And even in the best of people, until you cultivate it there is only the material for virtue, not virtue itself.

I say that they(people) are just as capable as others of doing these things, but won't. In any event what person actually trying them has found them prove beyond him? Who hasn't noticed how much easier they are in the actual doing? It's not because they're hard that we loose confidence; they're hard because we lack the confidence.

Freedom cannot be won without sacrifice. If you set a high value on her, everything else must be valued at little.

Everyone faces up more bravely to a thing for which he has long prepared himself, sufferings, even, being withstood if they have been trained for in advance. Those who are unprepared, on the other hand, are panic-stricken by the most insignificant happenings.

And since it is invariably unfamiliarity that makes a thing more formidable than it really is, this habit of continual reflection will ensure that no form of adversity finds you a complete beginner.

There are conditions of our existence which we cannot change. What we can do is adopt a noble spirit, such a spirit as befits a good man, so that we may bear up bravely under all that fortune sends us and bring our wills into tune with nature's: reversals, after all, are the means by which nature regulates this visible realm of hers.

It is in no man's power to not wish for what he hasn't got, and cheerfully make the most of the things that do come his way.

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