Epicurus’s dictum was that “One sage is no wiser than another.” Clearly, Seneca agreed with this idea because he loved quoting Epicurus, even though he belonged to a rival school. His famous line was that he’d quote even a bad author if the line was good.
This is a good example that does not go far enough. We should actively pursue and engage with anyone who can be a source of wisdom to us, regardless of the school of thought from which that wisdom arose. That does not mean you have to become best friends, or abandon your philosophical first principles, just that you should listen. And not just listen, but hear. Because if there is wisdom out there to be had, we’d be wise to avail ourselves of it—and ignorant (or worse, stupid) not to.
So don’t let your studies stop with Stoicism. Make sure you read widely. Pick up Epicurus and Confucius. Look at the best teachings of the Christians and the Buddhists, and the Islamists and the polytheists. There is good stuff in all these schools.
The ancients were voracious consumers of knowledge and information, but they had nothing compared to the access and tools we take for granted today. They would have loved to be able to carry around thousands of digital books in their pocket, or have access to a website that let them get every book ever written delivered to their door in minutes. Can you imagine what they would have thought about a digital subscription service like Scribd that gives you basically every book ever published for less than $10 a month?
What would they think of a world where, for free on YouTube, you can watch the lectures of the wisest people ever captured on film? You can bet they would have watched everything they could of Viktor Frankl, Alan Watts, the Dalai Lama, Ayn Rand, Richard Feynman, David Foster Wallace, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Camille Paglia, Maya Angelou, Stephen Hawking—the list is endless, just as their options would be.
Don’t limit yourself. There are many wise sages out there—all with different takes on the same essential truths. You can benefit from learning and listening to all of them, even if only your disagreements with some of their teachings serve to clarify what you do believe.
There’s a wide world of knowledge out there. Quote it and consume it all.
P.S. This was originally sent on January 24th, 2019. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.
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