Freedom Is The Prize

Seneca thought deeply and wrote on Stoic philosophy. His letters to a friend are a great read. He was also caught in a “golden cage.” He was sucked into the inner circle as an advisor to the Roman Emperor Nero. As he accumulated wealth and power and prestige, he found he could not leave. Even had he wished.

I’ve seen a letter he wrote compared to a letter the Apostle Paul wrote. They are so alike you could think one was copied from the other (probably not). They were so alike that later generations of Christians in the first four hundred years of the church actually thought Seneca was one of them.

Seneca was also a favorite of many of the founders of the US.

He wrote, “Freedom is the prize we are working for, not being a slave to anything—not to compulsion, not to chance events.” Then he said, “show me a man who isn’t a slave.” 

Americans, especially, like to proclaim individual freedom. Many think that means they can do whatever they want whenever they want to whomever they want. Thinkers like Seneca (and Paul, and others) call a time out on that thought.

Maybe we’re a slave to compulsion or to chance events. Maybe those mean whatever false and misleading, but tempting, thing we see on social media or on our chosen favorite TV “news” source. Maybe we dance to someone else’s music who can rile our emotions such that we lose our path.

Calling it a “prize we are working for” implies that we must always work for our freedom. What that usually means is freeing ourselves from our own shackles of living by the whims of our emotions or the leading of those who merely try to raise our emotional temperature.

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