How does a philosophy sound when committed to living well? When about quality of being, not just thinking big? How would we relate to those around us, ourselves, to our friends? Can we reconcile the rigor of thoughtfulness with simple living?
For Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), "the mere name of philosophy, however quietly pursued, is an object of sufficient scorn" as we begin to separate ourselves from the customs of our fellow-men. Yet while recommending against this direction, he calls also for "living to oneself" and "avoiding the crowds" above all.
Practical wisdom of this kind manages a kind of intellectual humility with regard to the universe, while bravely maintaining the constancy of one who knows. His prudence consists in taking measure of important aspects in life, an activity itself practical, while securing his claims by the nature of things. As a small example, after a discussion regarding when to generously trust as friends and when to hide our cards, he concludes: Discuss the problem with Nature; she will tell you that she has created both day and night.
We will read these 11 short letters. The writing is beautiful and while written over 2000 years ago may still be considered the ultimate handbook in stoic practical wisdom.
The titles give a good glimpse into their content.
Letter 1: On Saving Time
Letter 2: On Discursiveness in Reading
Letter 3: On True and False Friendship
Letter 4: On The Terrors of Death
Letter 5: On The Philosopher’s Mean
Letter 6: On Sharing Knowledge
Letter 7: On Crowds
Letter 8: On the Philosopher’s Seclusion
Letter 9: On Philosophy and Friendship
Letter 10: On Living to Oneself
Letter 11: On the Blush of Modesty
Read in advance, and let's see where the conversation freely goes. As always, although I posted Seneca, these meetups are about us. We are the true discourse, as the logos is gathered in many ways.