Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic is a collection of letters about morality from Roman philosopher and senator Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD65) to his friend Lucilius. Stoic philosophy holds that our inner life matters more than outward circumstances, and that we ought to seek wisdom, justice, and virtue while practicing moderation, discipline, and self-control – and that to do so would make one “self-sufficient, immune to suffering, superior to the wounds and upsets of life.” Which, for a school of Hellenistic philosophy, sounds really fucking useful right now, right?
If you’ve ever been interested in reading books about stoicism, developing a more stoic personality, or just learning how to practice stoicism in general – or just found yourself taken in by occasional stoic philosophy quotes and wondered, “Just WTF, ancient Rome?” – consider this a goddamn motherfucking introduction.
We’ve adapted several of Seneca’s letters into modern vernacular, R-rated English. Did we translate this from the original Latin? Fucking no. Why did we do this? Why the fuck not, motherfucker, we want you to read this shit.
by Jennifer Dziura
Yeah, It’s Noisy, Get Over Your Shit
Look, peace and quiet are not that fucking important, even if you’re trying to study or some shit.
Imagine me living above a public bath-house. Fun picture, right? Some stupid sweaty weight lifters are slamming their weights and grunting away, and a guy is getting a cheap massage so all I can hear is gross slapping and cupping noises on his oily fucking back. And then someone starts a ball game, somebody else starts a fight, somebody starts stealing shit, somebody else is talking too loud, somebody else is doing cannonballs in the pool, people are selling sausages and pastries, and then finally, some motherfucking hair remover dude starts shouting “Hair removal! Get your hair removal right here!” and then that goes on until he actually gets a customer, and then I have to listen to some dude screaming while he gets his armpit hair ripped out. Lovely. Fucking lovely. But I’m cool. I’m chill. Fucking real chill.
Maybe you think I’m made of fucking iron because this doesn’t bother me. There’s this other stoic, Chryssipus, who lost his shit because people kept saying “Good morning” to him. Don’t be like that dude. There’s a story about a culture who lived on the Nile and up and moved their fucking capital because the sound of a goddamn waterfall drove them batshit fucking nuts.
But me? I live near a carpenter, and another guy who saws all day, and a dude who tunes horns and flutes down by the fountain. Sounds like shit. But I force my mind to stay inside itself and not to be distracted by the outside world. It can be fucking chaos outside as long as it’s calm inside of you. That, my friend, is motherfucking stoicism.
People sometimes write poems about how fucking still and peaceful it is at night. That is fucking false. The only time you’ll get any peace is if there’s peace in your mind. If you’re all fucked up, night doesn’t make that shit go away – it brings it up all over again. It doesn’t even go away when you sleep. Your dreams are all fucked up.
There are some people who demand total quiet at night, making everyone else in their house whisper and tip-toe around. But people like that still toss and turn and wake up all night, and even imagine they heard sounds when they didn’t, because they haven’t worked out their own shit.
It’s the same shit with people who retire, saying they’re done with politics and they want to live a simple life. Sure, buddy. It’s the same as trying to go to sleep by shutting out outside noise, when your inner shit is all fucked up. Some people were only holding their shit together because they had to be around other people. So when they retire, there’s nobody to keep them from fucking drinking all damn day. The turmoil is inside. Their shit’s fucked up.
Virgil wrote what Aeneas was thinking as he rushed his family out of Troy while the city was being sacked. He’s like, “When I was a warrior, I didn’t even flinch at facing a Greek army. Now, while leading my son and carrying my dad, I’m scared at every breeze.”
When you have a lot to lose, you get scared. Look at the most “successful” people, and they’re some of the most cowardly.
The only time you’ll ever feel really chill is when voices can’t get to you, whether those voices want to tempt you or fuck you up.
“That’s nice,” you might say, “but isn’t it easier to just go someplace else?”
Yes. Yes, indeed. Which is why I’m moving someplace quieter, real damn soon. But hey, I wanted to test myself. I’m a motherfucking stoic.
Update: Hear a dramatic reading of the post!
Hey fuckers, that was some fucking Seneca, more or less. Peace is nice, but your peace of mind comes from within. You have to find meaning and inner peace in your own fucking self or it’s just fuckers getting their armpit hair ripped out 24/7. Want more stoicism? Here’s the goddamn book. Peaceful words abound. And make sure you read the other installments in Letters from a Motherfucking Stoic.
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