In this series of blog posts I attempt to translate the Moral Letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In letter 32 Seneca discusses why its important to constantly progress towards being virtuous.
I’ve asked after you. I want to keep an eye on what activities you’re spending your time on. And, of course, who you’re spending your time with. So, even though I’m not with you in person you may want to pretend that I am. Then I won’t hear anything about you that upsets me and leads me to believe that you’re not making progress in life.
I guess that not hearing negative comments about you may mean something else though. For example, that you’re spending little or no time with the virtuous people I’ve spoken to. If this is the case then I trust you’re not associating with people who are a bad influence? Anyway, whoever you choose spend you time with I know you will act well and wisely. They won’t be able to sway you into doing things against your better judgement. What I am concerned about however, is that they will slow down the progress you’ve made. Why is this important, well ….. I keep saying that life is short. And if you accept this then why give away parts of your life away to people of little consequence? If you do then you’ll have less time to make a lasting impact on achieving your goals.
So, its important to never forget that you have a limited amount of time on Earth. You must keep on pushing forward with personal improvements. This way when you do come to finally die you won’t have regrets. You’ll be able to die happy in the knowledge that you’ve done your best in the limited amount of time you had.
And it’s also important to remember that there isn’t an afterlife. A place where you’ll end-up after you die. With this in mind, you should approach being virtuous in life as an end in itself. By this I mean that you shouldn’t try to be virtuous as a way to enter heaven or stay out of hell. Don’t think that your soul will survive after death. The time to live your life and to perfect virtues is in the here and now, in the present.
In signing off I’ll say that I hope you maintain self-control. Because once you do then you’ll find contentment. Contentment because you’ll know what is important and you focus on this. You’ll be happy with the years you’ve lived because you’ve lived them well and with purpose.
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.