The guy that spoke before Lincoln at Gettysburg went on for about 2 hours—his speech was 13,607 words long. Lincoln got up and spoke just 271 words. Think about how short Meditations is. Think about Seneca’s best quotes, how boiled-down and blunt they are.
Real insight does not take many words to express.
The Stoics knew that we should never use two words where one will do. The Stoics knew that really understanding something means that you make it simple, not complex. In fact, that was one of Epictetus’s complaints about Chrysippus. When he heard people congratulating themselves for having navigated the man’s difficult prose, Epictetus said if Chrysippus had written better, you’d have nothing to be proud of.
Wisdom is truth and truth is clear. Especially in Stoicism: There is no good or bad, just our opinions. Just that you do the right thing, the rest doesn’t matter. You could leave life right now, let that determine what you do and think.
These are not easy ideas to apply, but they are at least easy to say, easy to learn, easy to remember. Like all good ideas, they are to the point and don’t go past it. Which is why we’ll end this email along the same lines: It doesn’t take many words to speak the truth.
P.S. This was originally sent on April 5, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.