I: Living Like A Phoenix

The first letter, a new Stoic movie, and discussion on Epictetus's Handbook

Welcome to The Stoa Letter, the newsletter on Stoic theory and practice.

Each week we share one meditation on Stoic theory, one action to do in order to become more Stoic, and links to the best resources we’ve found.

🏛️ Theory

The mythical phoenix dies at the end of every day.

It emerges from the ashes in the morning and returns to dust in the evening.

Every day it sees the world anew.

Marcus Aurelius once wrote:

Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?

Meditations, 7.57

Divide your life into two. There’s the past and then now.

Like the phoenix, you can see the world as if everything were fresh. You do not need to be tied down by history or defined by the past.

Imagine starting again now. Live without fear and treat every situation as a gift.

This may sound like silly ritual, but there is a sense in which it is real. Our past no longer exists. It is in ashes, all the remains is what is aflame now.

So, when Marcus Aurelius wrote this note to himself he reminded himself that — though he can be “reborn” — he cannot take that for granted. Soon, we will no longer have the opportunity to transform ourselves.

So why not take it now? What is holding you back?

Hundreds of years ago, Marcus Aurelius reminded himself that he had a limited time to focus on what matters, experience the gifts of life, and pursue virtue.

We can do the same today.

🎯 Action

Today, pause and imagine that you have been gifted the rest of your life as a bonus by Nature. Then live well.

🔗 Links

🎧️ Michael Tremblay and Caleb Ontiveros walk through the beginning of Epictetus’s Handbook in the most recent Stoa Conversation. They do a close reading of the first two chapters. Read them too (we like the Robin Hard translation) and then compare your thoughts with theirs.

🎥 A new movie trailer just dropped. John Malkovich will portray the Stoic philosopher Seneca!

Seneca movie poster

Looks like it’s going to be a dark comedy exploring some of the complexities of his life. We’re excited to see it.

🎥 Our friend, Donald Robertson, author of How to Think Like A Roman Emperor, put together a reaction video for the trailer – check it out.

📖 Our favorite books on Seneca are James Romm’s Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero and David Fideler’s Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living. Read Romm’s book for an in depth biography and go to Fideler’s for a sense of Seneca’s practical philosophy and how it can change a life.

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