Today marks day 20 of my 30-day challenge to write a piece on a different quote from Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic” for 30 consecutive days.
I’ve been pondering a simple question today: Who’s getting anything out of this besides me? What use is it to anybody for a preschool teacher to be reflecting on words that have been written about and dissected by PhDs in Philosophy (Doctors of Philosophy, in Philosophy)?!
Guess who has an answer to these questions? Come on, just a wild guess…
None other than Lucius Annaeus Seneca!
Here’s what my 2,000+ year-old friend has to say about the subject:
“Whatever is true is my property. And I shall persist in inflicting Epicurus on you, in order to bring it home to the people who take an oath of allegiance to someone and never afterwards consider what is being said but only who said it, that the things of greatest merit are common property.”
In this passage, Seneca was responding to his correspondent Lucilius’s complaint that Seneca had just used Epicurus’s words in an argument he was making.
Seneca’s defense and lesson is that, “Whatever is true,” “the things of greatest merit” don’t belong to anybody. They belong to you and me as much as they belong to whomever said them first and to people who hold post-graduate degrees in philosophy. Anyone can use them as much as they want.
The content of Seneca’s work doesn’t constitute the ultimate truth, yet his Letters are things of superlative merit. We can all consider them ours. It’s humbling to be given free reign, so to speak, by Seneca himself to study his work and make it mine.
The quote also highlights that what matters is what’s said, not who says it. I may (or may not) be writing things that touch a chord in some people. My great wish is that the pieces are at least making readers ponder ideas and examine their life in some way.
I believe that using Seneca’s work as my foundation immensely increases the odds that they are.
Links to the first 20 days: