Seneca on Continued Education

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

The Stoics believed that our true education is a lifelong pursuit.

“You should keep learning as long as you are ignorant, – even to the end of your life, if there is anything in the proverb. And the proverb suits the present case as well as any: “As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” For all that, there is also something which I can teach in that school. You ask, do you, what I can teach? That even an old man should keep learning.”

This unending pursuit of self-development is the foundation of Stoic Philosophy. Athletics has taught many of us the value of such labor. Sports are the supreme vehicle for developing one’s virtues in a controlled atmosphere. But as time passes our bodies slow down and we inevitably give up on athletic pursuits.

Stoicism is an ideology fit to guide a man through his entire life. Our highest pursuit, ourselves, is the path perpetually beneath our feet. We are never too feeble to mold our character.

Stoicism can be practiced equally in wealth and scarcity, in sickness and health, in youth and old age, in the crowd and in solitude. Every moment is a vehicle for our development.

“Why do you wait? Wisdom comes haphazard to no man. Money will come of its own accord; titles will be given to you; influence and authority will perhaps be thrust upon you; but virtue will not fall upon you by chance.”

Seneca’s words hold true–no man becomes wise by chance. There is much comfort to be found in knowing the true measure of a man happens to be that over which he has most control.”

Despite our best efforts, the majority of our lives are outside of our control. We have no say in when, where, and to whom we are born. We each come predisposed with certain strengths and weaknesses, and much of our experiences come at the hands of fate. Chance will have much say in the ordering of our outer lives but ultimately cannot touch us in our depths.

“But when you wish to inquire into a man’s true worth, and to know what manner of man he is, look at him when he is naked; make him lay aside his inherited estate, his titles, and the other deceptions of fortune; let him even strip off his body. Consider his soul, its quality and its stature, and thus learn whether its greatness is borrowed, or its own.”

Tony Robbins teaches that we each seek to fulfill six human needs: certainty, uncertainty, significance, love and connection, growth, and contribution. Though we value each differently, we must address all six if we are to live a complete life. This is the true value of Stoicism– it is a practice which forces us to consistently grow, and in so doing, makes the attainment of the remainder of our human needs possible.

Stoicism is the subject, the world is our classroom, and each day our homework is the cultivation of ourselves. No man ever graduates this course while he lives. Our work is never done as our greatest potential can never be reached.

We climb anyway, all the while remembering that the higher we ascend, the more beautiful the view.

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