Brady F. Anderson

Tao of Seneca

This collection of Seneca’s Moral Letters to Lucilius is by Tim Ferris and can be found for free here.

My Notes

Part of the beauty of growing old is fewer desires. My grandfather asked for a single gift on his birthday, a framed photo of his wife was all he wanted.

Whether when waking up or falling asleep, confidence that you have lived well brings gladness. Being ready to die each day and grateful for the next, if it arrives, helps.

Summaries are only useful for people who understand a subject. Overviews jog memories, but they teach little.

Never let the superfluous become necessary.

Spending refers to far more than money. Free goods, services, favors, and statuses can come with the costs of anxiety, loss of personal freedom, risk, stress, and time. We often think of ourselves as cheaper than all else.

Avoid confusing means for enabling happiness with happiness itself.

We impose servitude on ourselves when we become slaves to our desires.

Recalling memories can make distant recollections feel like a moment ago.

The good in life has no dependence on the length of life.

It is easy to blame faults on places, times, or others, even when those faults follow us through life. Improving means attributing those faults to circumstances within yourself rather than external causes.

Learning virtue by unlearning vice

Teachers help us stay consistent and dedicated. Alone we veer different directions at the mercy of desire.

Death is non-existence. We have done it before, so why fear doing it again?

Luxuries make us weak. When we start declining discomfort, we eventually find we can no longer overcome it.

Where you live matters little. Your life is well-placed when your mind is agreeable with your conditions.

“I see you, my dear Lucilius, and at this very moment I hear you; I am with you to such an extent that I hesitate whether I should not begin to write you notes instead of letters. Farewell.” Physical distance does not always absolve us of the company of others.

Never do anything unwillingly. This includes following orders, dying, and doing other things we have no choice but to do. Performing actions with gladness, even when we have no choice, prevents bitterness: doing what one does not want to do.

Lack nothing. Learn not only to despise things but to live as though what is yours belongs to all.

We will often be separated from friends or fail to see them even when we are in the same place. Don’t let grief teach you that we have lost too much of their time while they are still alive.

We often claim “that’s just how I feel” when we have a falsifiable belief instead. For example, “I’m afraid people will say I’m selfish” sounds like an emotion, fear, but is a belief about that world that may be true or false. Testing these beliefs to see if they are true and useful helps us overcome ourselves.

Being stoic is difficult because Stoics have value judgments unlike most people. Stoics do not deal in absolutes since they don’t need respect, leisure, or goods to thrive even if they may prefer those things. This indifference is difficult to maintain. Having both preferences and remaining unaffected by not fulfilling those desires is key.