It was not lost even on the Stoics that some parts of this philosophy come more naturally to some people than others. Some folks just seem chill by default. Some are so-called “old souls” who have wisdom and perspective, almost from birth. Others were not blessed (or cursed) with ambition or opportunities, and so there is very little challenge going on in their life anyway.
Good for them. That’s their lot in life. It’s not ours. It certainly wasn’t Seneca’s.
The rest of us have to struggle. We struggle against our impulses. We struggle to really internalize these teachings. We are struggling to manage our tempers or the envy that creeps up out of nowhere, into our souls, and then out through our hands and mouths as deeds we wish we could undo. It’d be nice if we didn’t have to struggle so much, but we do.
And yet, this struggle—and the triumphs over it, however temporary—that is what’s impressive about us. Seneca wrote that he doesn’t admire the person who has it easy, who is naturally Stoic. No, he admires the man “who has won a victory over the meanness of his own nature, and has not gently led himself, but has wrestled his way, to wisdom.” Seneca reserved his deepest appreciation for the person who’d survived the crucible of ego, who’d navigated the gauntlet of envy and pride, who’d walked through the shadow of the valley of death, but with himself as his own shepherd.
Today, we must continue to wrestle. We must continue to struggle and fight for victory. It won’t be easy—it never is—but that’s the whole point. It’s the man in the arena that we admire. It’s the one covered in dust and sweat that matters. And that’s who we are.