A groveler isn't really free.

“When you see someone grovelling before another, or flattering them contrary to his own opinion, you can confidently say he is not free. And not only if he does this for a mere dinner, but also if it is for the sake of a prefecture or consulship. People who do these things for petty ends you can call petty slaves, while those who do them for grand purposes can be called grand slaves, as they deserve.”

My esteemed student, your inquiry about this lesson delves into the core of our shared principles. I’m gratified to see that you continue to reflect upon this teaching and apply it to your daily life. Allow me to expand the underlying wisdom behind these words, for they explore the true essence of freedom and the path to autonomy that leads towards it.

It speaks to the fundamental Stoic precept of self-mastery, asserting that a person is only truly free when they are unshackled from the fetters of external influences. Only then can it be said that someone is genuinely steadfast in their convictions.

By prostrating ourselves before others or compromising our principles for the sake of worldly gains, we relinquish our autonomy and, in essence, enslave ourselves to the whims of external forces. Whether for paltry rewards or grand ambitions, this submission diminishes our inner sovereignty and corrupts our authentic selves. To avoid such a fate, we must be ever vigilant in preserving our personal integrity, anchoring ourselves firmly in the tenets of our shared philosophy.

As Stoics, we advocate for an unwavering commitment to virtue and the cultivation of our inner faculties, for it is through these practices that we attain genuine freedom. Embracing the values of wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance, we fortify our inner fortress against the caprices of fate and the vagaries of the world. By doing so, we are empowered to confront life’s vicissitudes with equanimity and grace, unyielding to the temptations of servitude.

Most people don’t. Instead, they remain captured in the busy lives of more important people.

In the words of the sage Heraclitus,

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.”

This profound insight captures the fluidity of our ever-changing environment, illustrating that the world around us is constantly in flux. We, too, must evolve and adapt to maintain our inner compass. When we are a slave to the whim of others in any way, we forfeit control of precisely which river we choose to place our feet in.

To manifest this vision of freedom, one must engage in continuous self-examination and reflection, nurturing our inner garden and cultivating our character. As the great Socrates once declared, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We must heed his counsel and strive to uncover unjustified grovelling of both the visible and invisible kind. Then we can take action to reduce the influence others have on our lives. This ceaseless endeavour, although arduous, leads towards a life of autonomy, contentment, and inner peace.

In your pursuit of self-mastery and freedom, dear student, remember that the path to true liberation lies within your own thoughts and actions. As someone charged with leading you into the world, I urge you to cultivate the virtues of wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance, transforming yourself into an unyielding bastion of moral integrity. In this way, you shall find yourself impervious to the enticements of servitude, able to navigate the shifting sands of fortune with grace and poise.

I trust that these insights shall guide you in your journey towards true freedom and self-mastery. As you embark upon this noble quest, know that I am filled with pride and anticipation, confident in your capacity to transcend the bonds of servitude and ascend to the lofty heights of virtue. May the wisdom of the ancients illuminate your path, and the teachings we once shared be your steadfast companions in this voyage of self-discovery.