In what is almost certainly his greatest piece of writing, On The Shortness of Life, Seneca is writing to his newly retired father-in-law Paulinas. Now, Seneca writes, Paulinas will have more time “to produce the balance-sheet of your own life than that of the grain market.” Paulinas was the longtime supervisor of Rome’s Grain Dole.
What was that? The Roman Empire at that time was enormous, with a population of some forty-five million citizens. Jobs were scarce. Unemployment was high. Rapid expansion and economic stagnation had led to a sort of economic recession–one not unlike the one that looms globally right now.
In response, the upper and ruling classes came together and instituted the Cura Annonae—the “care of grain.” The government distributed free grain to the poor and the suffering, ensuring that everyone had enough to eat, doing their Stoic duty to care for the common good. And, continuing until the last years of the empire, it was one of the most lasting and impactful of all Roman government programs.
It’s an inspiring legacy that continues to this day–in fact, it’s one we’ve tried to not just speak about here at Daily Stoic but act on.
Hierocles was a Roman Stoic who spoke of the “circles of concern.” Our first concern, he said, was our mind, but beyond this was our concern for our bodies, for our immediate family, then our extended family. Like concentric rings, these circles were followed by our concern for our community, our city, our country, our empire, our world. The work of philosophy, he said, was to draw this outer concern inward, to learn how to care as much as possible for as many people as possible, to do as much good for them as possible.
Those in that outer circle need our help.
More than 828 million people around the globe go to bed hungry every night. More than 34 million people in America are food insecure, including over nine million children. Like those who were fortunate enough to help in the times of the Roman empire, we have to step up today. We have to illustrate those virtues of courage and justice toward and for and through others. To help people from going hungry. To alleviate someone’s worry and fear. To put food on their table.
And we can do this together. For the third year in a row we’re raising money for Feeding America. Every dollar the Daily Stoic community raises provides 10 meals to those in need. We made the initial $30,000 donation and thanks to the kindness and generosity of over 5,000 Daily Stoic subscribers, we are almost halfway to our fundraising goal of $300,000 which will provide three MILLION meals.
If you would like to donate just head over to dailystoic.com/feeding—together we can make a small dent in a big problem. Even just a dollar or two can mean everything to someone. We can’t alleviate everyone’s suffering or struggle, but for the people we can help—the difference is huge.
So let’s do it. Let us be good Stoics today.
P.S. If you live outside the U.S., check out Action Against Hunger—the global humanitarian organization that fights against hunger across nearly 50 countries. You click here to donate. Let’s be good Stoics today. Let’s fulfill our obligation.