Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 1, Living Well, Dying Well

Seneca discusses our most precious possession, our possession that we can never really possess, that continually slips through our fingers, the loan we can never repay, the gift we waste through carelessness, the treasure we should not waste, our most precious possession, time.

Seneca asks, “What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. What years be behind us are in death’s hands?” Nothing in life is ours except time, while we postpone life speeds by, so let us live well, not wasting time. […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 5 Seeing life’s misfortunes through the eyes of our neighbor

Marcus Aurelius tells us that we should always remember that if men do not do right, we should assume that “they do so involuntarily and in ignorance. For as every soul is unwillingly deprived of the truth, so also is it unwillingly deprived of the power behaving as it should.”

We should “consider that we also do many things wrong, that we are merely men, that even when we refrain from certain faults, we still have the disposition to commit them, either through cowardice, concern about reputation, or some other mean motive.” […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 3 Genuine Friends Don’t Keep Scorecards

The Meditations admonish us, Do not be lazy! But then he says sometimes it is necessary to rest, but not in excess. Do not rest or eat or drink more than is sufficient, “so you do not love yourself.” What does a good emperor advise us, and also his successors? “Show those qualities that are altogether in your power: sincerity, gravity, endurance of labor, aversion to pleasure, contentment with what you have and with a simple life, benevolence, frankness, no love of frills, freedom from trifling magnanimity.” Do not grumble, do not be stingy, do not flatter, do not try to please men or show off. […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 2, Others will be irritating, but not I!

Marcus Aurelius advises us in Book II to “begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busybody, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them because they are ignorant of what is good and evil. . . I can neither be injured by any of these, for no one can force me to be ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him. […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius, Blog 1, Friend, or Foe, or Both, of Christianity?

Plato in his book “The Republic” said the ideal ruler would be a philosopher-king. This wish would come true under the rein of Marcus Aurelius, the last of the five good emperors of Rome, who ruled sometime after Nero but before the first Christian emperor Constantine. Marcus was not known as a philosopher during his lifetime, for his Stoic masterpiece, “Meditations,” was penned while he was on campaign as Emperor fighting the barbarian, probably as a series of reflections for his son. The “Meditations” did not circulate widely in antiquity, but gained recognition in the centuries following his reign. […]

Epictetus and Rufus

Musonius Rufus on Exile

Rufus asks, like a good stoic, Why should the exile lament of his condition, why should he complain, how is he oppressed? Has he been exiled from the warmth of sun, has he been exiled from being refreshed by the rain, has he been excluded from the society of men? Rufus adds that in exile we may associate with our friends, our true friends, those friends “who would never betray or abandon us,” but those who shun us are not true friends, we are better off without those who are not truly friends. The most important question Rufus asks is, “How can exile be an obstacle to the . . . acquisition of virtue, when no one was ever hindered from the knowledge and practice of what is needful because of exile?” Rufus dismisses those who insist that exiles are the worse off when they also lose their freedom of speech. Nonsense, Rufus says, for you never truly lose your freedom of speech, for nobody can ever take away your freedom of thought, and if you do not feel free to speak out against injustice or impiety, you are not limited by lack of freedom, you are reined back by FEAR. To the truly courageous who insist on speaking out, the truly courageous who fear neither pain nor punishment nor death, how can they lose their freedom? They are truly free.

We must truly be thankful of all our fortunes and misfortunes, for neither keeps us from seeking virtue, and both can aid us in our journey towards greater virtue, towards salvation, towards the working out of our salvation, for what else does working out our salvation mean, if it does not mean that we work out our salvation through both our blessings and our sufferings? […]

Epictetus and Rufus

Musonius Rufus on Concupiscence and Controlling the Appetites

Many who denigrate St Augustine for his overly strict attitudes on intimacy and concupiscence do not realize that he was repeating what Stoic philosophers taught. Rufus is our best example, he criticizes “men who live luxuriously and desire a variety of sexual experiences, legitimate and illegitimate, with both women and men.” Then Rufus gives us advice that is very similar to the teachings of St Augustine: “men who are neither licentious nor wicked must consider only those intimate acts between husband and wife for the creation of children to be right and lawful, but intimate acts that chase after mere pleasure, even in marriage, to be wrong and unlawful.” What if nobody is hurt by these acts of pleasure? Rufus maintains “everyone who acts wrongly and unjustly, even if doesn’t hurt those near to him, immediately shows himself to be entirely base and dishonorable.” […]

Epictetus and Rufus

Musonius Rufus, Stoic Philosopher, Forgiveness and Obedience

When someone wrongs us, should we file suit, or should we forgive and forbear? Rufus explores this topic in his lecture on whether a philosopher should file a suit when assaulted. He tells us that “those who do not know what is really good and what is really shameful, and who are overly concerned with their own fame, these people think that they are being injured if someone glares at them, laughs at them, hits them, or mocks them. But a man who is thoughtful and sensible, as a philosopher should be, is disturbed by none of these things.” […]