Remember the End

On Letter II, Letters from a Stoic

To be everywhere is to be nowhere.

Seneca’s second letter is a treatise on keeping your attention narrow so that the activity you focus on is meaningful and isn’t just “lost” in the churn of the River “Life”. The letter starts with a compliment for Lucilius, congratulating him on his tendency to stay in one place and not move around. “Restlessness of that sort is symptomatic of a sick mind”. He goes on to make many comparisons to the dangers you encounter when your attention span is stretched and challenged by multiple activities. From reading too many books for their lessons to be useful, to travelling so much you can never have any real friends, Seneca warns us that “a plant which is frequently moved never grows strong”.

In today’s modern age, Seneca’s second letter is an essential reminder for you to be vigilant and focused so that the value of your efforts can be realised. Whether it is the books of two thousand years ago, or Instagram today, Seneca’s advice is as reliable as ever. His advice implores you to focus on the things that are important in life and to ensure your focus is maintained on learning and improving yourself. The book analogy is a particularly poignant one to me because as I grow older, I run into a lot of situations where I remember the gist of something I read, but never the content. I end up doing a disservice to the one I am giving advice. But as I read Philosophy over and over again, the ideas and words stick in my brain laying a foundation of self-improvement that I can use for not only myself but for others.

This advice is particularly apt when I think of Memento Mori. I could hardly spell it correctly a year ago, and now when I think of those two words, I can barely contain the knowledge that is attempting to escape my mind. That is the value of reading important books instead of those with trifling topics: you want the books you read to have meaning and develop you as an individual. As in life, knowledge should not be learnt for the sake of knowledge; it should be learnt to improve yourself and to help the community. Knowing obscure facts has never saved lives or built grand buildings, and it probably won’t any time soon. We need to strive to improve ourselves, and to live to our nature; our nature is not lazy, idle, or random, so we must act accordingly. By focusing on those things which can help us and repeating them, we are building ourselves up, brick-by-brick.


Adam is a student at Deakin University, studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Philosophy. This blog is about making the learning experience more helpful by encouraging me to write and share.