In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral Letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In letter 27 Seneca describes the importance of having a good character.
You may ask why I’m giving you some advice, especially when I’m not perfect myself. No, before you say it, I’m not a hypocrite. Nor is dishing out advice a hobby of mine. Rather, by giving you feedback I can consider my own character flaws. Could I also take my own advice too to improve my character? In other words, will my advice to you make me a better person as well?
By thinking in this way then we can both make sure we live good lives. By following this advice we won’t have many regrets when we’re dying. We’ll know that we’ve tried to live a virtuous existence and our character was as great as it could be.
None of us know when we will die so its important to start this process now. Anything we are not proud of may come back to haunt our thoughts. Past regrets can linger in our minds. So the sooner we live well, the better it is for us. Another benefit is that when you can understand what it means to you to live a good life, then day to day problems will come and go. They will be like a cloud floating past the sun.
So, lets not delay in making these improvements. You can’t expect someone else to do this for you. You have to take control yourself and devise your own strategies for change. You can’t delegate this activity. Don’t overthink how best to start. Experience and mistakes are a great tutor.
So in signing off I’ll say this: you don’t need money to be rich. For example, you can’t buy love, integrity and friendship. You can be poor but if you have these things then this is real wealth. Think about this as much as you can. Some people will take this advice on board, others will need it shoved down their throats.
I recommend you read all of the most influential Letters in this new Penguin Classic book. It is the best translation, in my opinion, because it captures Seneca’s humour and style. It is also the easiest to read. My copy is full of highlighted lines, margin notes and tabs. A treasure chest of profound, practical advice which you can apply immediately.
Warning: this is not an academic text; it describes a hands-on philosophy of life. Discover powerful, instantly helpful wisdom. The complete guide to improving your day-to-day activities, thoughts and actions.