With Seneca Among Children
Variety

With Seneca Among Children

An Interview with Seneca the Younger
Piotr Stankiewicz
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time 14 minutes

A “Przekrój” exclusive! An extraordinary posthumous interview with Seneca, about what we can learn from children and how not to get lost in the contemporary world – all thanks to our staff philosopher.

Piotr Stankiewicz: What’s the best way to introduce Your Excellency? Lucius Annaeus Seneca – the most famous Roman oligarch?

Seneca: That word is kind of modern, ‘oligarch’ – isn’t just ‘philosopher’ better?

Maybe ‘millionaire philosopher’? Or, counting two millennia worth of interest, perhaps ‘billionaire’?

I don’t know if I like this kind of identity. These, after all, are external things.

Well, you amassed some assets, accepted a few legacies…

Were they supposed to go to waste? The soul of a person wastes away if you don’t exercise it, but capital is also wasted if it gets bored. Weren’t we not supposed to talk about this?

We were supposed to talk about stoicism. For at least 2000 years people have been fascinated by how what Your Excellency wrote about life relates to how Your Excellency lived.

Has any author’s legacy ever freed them from this accusation? If the guide is supposed to show the road, can he follow it himself? By the way, in this 21st century of yours, do you always start with criticism?

OK, so we’ll move to praise. I’ll take up the subject I left off on with Marcus Aurelius in winter. We were talking about death.

The classics are just a barrel of laughs.

There’s an argument in Your Excellency’s Dialogues that stuck in my mind many years ago, and I’ve never had the opportunity to thank you. It was about how we can look at death as a transition to another stage of life. And in this sense, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. An infant ceases to be an infant and becomes a child. Then the child ceases to be a child and becomes a young adult; later we also discard young adulthood, entering into middle age, and so on. These steps aren’t clearly defined, of course. Each of them is a process, and

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What Olga Tokarczuk’s notion of the tender narrator, certain philosophical ideas and the Buddha’s teachings all have in common is a kind of caring guardianship.

Where can we meet someone who cares for us? At home, in the family, but also in religion and philosophy. In each of these areas, it is currently hard to find such a figure. Not impossible, but definitely difficult. In our culture, more and more women are giving up the archetypal role of carer (unless they are caring for one another, motivated by the idea of feminist sisterhood). With the revolutionary wave of emancipation, the archetype of the female warrior comes to the fore. Men – as Zimbardo and other psychologists have long claimed – are weak and are becoming weaker, increasingly submissive, and lack a sense of the meaning of life. Meanwhile, the carer should provide a sense of security, thanks to – among others – the strength of their character, as well as their wisdom and experience. Still, the most important feature that distinguishes the avatars of archetypal carers from avatars of other archetypes (for example, sage or master) is the intention to help those who are suffering.

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