Stoic Stillness in the Digital Age

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

Every week we share three emails to help you build resilience and virtue with ancient philosophy. Each email includes 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

In today's world, we are bombarded with the thoughts and ideas of others. While this presents an opportunity to learn and grow, it also carries the risk of constant distraction.

Many of us become dependent on useless information streams – whether it’s television, podcasts, news, or social media. We live alone in virtual worlds, but we are not still.

The Stoic philosopher, Seneca warned:

Do not run hither and thither and distract yourself by changing your abode; for such restlessness is the sign of a disordered spirit.

Seneca, Moral Letters 2

If we’re not pinged or stimulated, it feels like nothing is happening – and that feeling is uncomfortable. When we sit through the discomfort, we can find tranquility and reflect on our life.

The ancients remind us that everyone has the ability to achieve self-reliance. Acting and thinking well is enough. This approach to life favors creating several deep relationships over many shallow ones. It supports returning to classic books again and again instead of trying to ride the waves of fashion.

When life challenges us, we need to rely on ourselves and our companions. We cannot escape into the newest text, trend, or television.

To ensure that we are not dependent on the latest news, it pays to pause. Each day, take 10 minutes to meditate, read, or write. Every week, set time aside for longer periods of solitary reflection. And every year, put even more effort into sitting quietly alone.

As Seneca writes in the same letter:

Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.

Seneca, Moral Letters 2

🎯 Action

Take some time to pause today. You can try meditation, reading, writing, or walking.

🔗 Links

🖋️ Poetry can provide a respite from the constant flow of novelty. It promotes memorization – revisiting the same lines over and over. A poem at hand serves as an anchor when facing the uncertainties of fortune. Here is a poem found on a copy of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations:

If thou would’st master care and pain,

Unfold this book and read and read again

Its blessed leaves, whereby thou soon shalt see

The past, the present, and the days to be

With opened eyes; and all delight, all grief,

Shall be like smoke, as empty and as brief.

Vatican manuscript of Meditations

I, personally, am a fan of Gerard Manley Hopkins (you can watch me reciting some of his poetry here). Memorization was an ancient Stoic technique, I’d like to bring it back in popularity. Please share any recommendations.

📖 How to nurture a personal library - An escape, a sanctuary, a place of pleasure, a memoir. Take these steps to ensure your library is just what you want it to be.

🪑 Seneca’s words echo the wisdom of the French philosopher and polymath Blaise Pascal:

All the trouble in the world is due to the fact that a man cannot sit still in a room.

Blaise Pascal, Pensées

What did you think about today's letter?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

🏆️ Share The Stoa Letter

If you find what we’re doing useful, please share it. Just have people sign up with your link below.

1 Referral — Cheatsheet on The Most Important Stoic Concepts— get access to our list of the most important Stoic concepts with links and instructions for putting each into practice.

3 Referrals – The Stoic Training Program PDF — in this 10-page guide, we share the three main ideas and practices that ground a Stoic approach to life.

5 Referrals – Five Stoic Meditations get five downloadable meditations to go deeper into your practice.

7 Referrals – Signed Book – Get a signed version of Rome’s Last Citizen. We’ve got a limited number of these. First come, first serve.

Share with your link below.

Join the conversation

or to participate.