Dear friends. I aim to use Seneca’s Moral Letters to Lucilius as tools in the ongoing search for what it means to live a good life. That search was not new in Seneca’s day, and it will not be old when we are all long gone.
If you think that all life’s questions have been answered to your satisfaction, then you need read no further. If you believe like me, though, there are still truths worth finding, then please read on. The reason to do anything is to answer a question that has not been answered, or at minimum to answer it for yourself.
I am not Seneca, and these are not his letters. Seneca’s letters are enduringly excellent, and his shoes certainly don’t need me trying to fill them. Seneca, however, urges us to grapple with deep thoughts, and to make personal our understanding of the truth. Because no one has a monopoly on the truth, that means we can each make a contribution to the quest.
Would it not be foolish for us to idly pass by the foundational stones laid by the great thinkers who labored before us? Seneca himself in search of inspiration says in his Letter 2:
I am wont to cross over even into the enemy’s camp, -- not as a deserter, but as a scout.
Let us all be avid scouts of the great thinkers, seeking out their every camp with the mindset of anthropologists unearthing meaning from among the ruins. Lately I feel myself more a geologist turned treasure hunter. Having picked up many carved stones amid the rubble, I now turn to polishing them to see which are precious and valuable.
Although Seneca’s words have been mined by many for centuries, each generation keeps turning up gemstones. Thus with these Moral Letters for Modern Times I seek to polish old stones to show them in a new light, and in washing off the mud and debris, to reveal what fresh reflections may appear.
A question you will be wondering soon is this: Who is Deuteros? Deuteros is the person these Modern Moral Letters are addressed to. Is Deuteros a real person? Is it just a name or does the word mean something? Deuteros is as real to me as you are, dear reader, and I think the letters work best if you assume I am writing to a real person.
As regards the relevance of the name to Seneca's original series, I can offer the following explanation: Deuteros in Greek means "second" and can also mean "secondary." In some places in the New Testament, the word is used to emphasize the new, which surpasses the first. I can live happily with any of "new, second, and secondary," although I do not promise to surpass the original. ↩︎