Tao of Seneca

On saving time

  •  The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose.
  • What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death

On discursiveness in reading

  • Be careful, however, lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady. You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind
  • Everywhere means nowhere
  • Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well; and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day
  •  “Contented poverty is an honourable estate.” Indeed, if it be contented, it is not poverty at all. It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor

On true and false friendship

  •  Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul. Speak as boldly with him as with yourself
  • Others, again, fear to confide in their closest intimates; and if it were possible, they would not trust even themselves, burying their secrets deep in their hearts

On the terrors of death

  • Doubtless you will derive enjoyment during the time when you are improving your mind and setting it at peace with itself; but quite different is the pleasure which comes from contemplation when one’s mind is so cleansed from every stain that it shines
  • Most men ebb and flow in wretchedness between the fear of death and the hardships of life; they are unwilling to live, and yet they do not know how to die
  • “Poverty brought into conformity with the law of nature, is great wealth.” Do you know what limits that law of nature ordains for us? Merely to avert hunger, thirst, and cold. 
  • It is the superfluous things for which men sweat

On the philosopher’s mean

  • Do not wear too fine, nor yet too frowzy, a toga. One needs no silver plate, encrusted and embossed in solid gold; but we should not believe the lack of silver and gold to be proof of the simple life
  • “Live according to Nature”; but it is quite contrary to nature to torture the body, to hate unlaboured elegance, to be dirty on purpose, to eat food that is not only plain, but disgusting and forbidding.
  • Beasts avoid the dangers which they see, and when they have escaped them are free from care; but we men torment ourselves over that which is to come as well as over that which is past

On sharing knowledge

  • “Give me also a share in these gifts which you have found so helpful,” I reply that I am anxious to heap all these privileges upon you, and that I am glad to learn in order that I may teach
  • If wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it. No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it
  •  the living voice and the intimacy of a common life will help you more than the written word

On crowds

  • To consort with the crowd is harmful; there is no person who does not make some vice attractive to us, or stamp it upon us, or taint us unconsciously therewith. Certainly, the greater the mob with which we mingle, the greater the danger
  • Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve. The process is mutual; for men learn while they teach.
  • Democritus: “One man means as much to me as a multitude, and a multitude only as much as one man.” 
  • I am content with few, content with one, content with none at all.”

On the philosophers seclusion

  • I never spend a day in idleness; I appropriate even a part of the night for study. I do not allow time for sleep but yield to it when I must, and when my eyes are wearied with waking and ready to fall shut, I keep them at their task
  • “Hold fast, then, to this sound and wholesome rule of life—that you indulge the body only so far as is needful for good health. The body should be treated more rigorously, that it may not be disobedient to the mind. Eat merely to relieve your hunger; drink merely to quench your thirst; dress merely to keep out the cold; house yourself merely as a protection against personal discomfort. It matters little whether the house be built of turf, or of variously coloured imported marble; understand that a man is sheltered just as well by a thatch as by a roof of gold
  • Epicurus: “If you would enjoy real freedom, you must be the slave of Philosophy.”

On philosophy and friendship

  • self-sufficient he is; for on occasion he can be content with a part of himself. If he lose a hand through disease or war, or if some accident puts out one or both of his eyes, he will be satisfied with what is left, taking as much pleasure in his impaired and maimed body as he took when it was sound. But while he does not pine for these parts if they are missing, he prefers not to lose them.
  • Unblest is he who thinks himself unblest.

On living to oneself

  • Hard to understand reread and research

On the blush of modesty

  • Cherish some man of high character, and keep him ever before your eyes, living as if he were watching you, and ordering all your actions as if he beheld them
  •  One who can so revere another, will soon be himself worthy of reverence

On old age

  • I owe it to my country-place that my old age became apparent whithersoever I turned. Let us cherish and love old age; for it is full of pleasure if one knows how to use it. Fruits are most welcome when almost over; youth is most charming at its close
  • Death, however, should be looked in the face by young and old alike

On groundless fears

  • This is the touchstone of such a spirit; no prizefighter can go with high spirits into the strife if he has never been beaten black and blue; the only contestant who can confidently enter the lists is the man who has seen his own blood, who has felt his teeth rattle beneath his opponent’s fist, who has been tripped and felt the full force of his adversary’s charge, who has been downed in body but not in spirit, one who, as often as he falls, rises again with greater defiance than ever.
  • we suffer more often in imagination than in reality

On the reasons for withdrawing from the world

  •  I do not maintain that the body is not to be indulged at all; but I maintain that we must not be slaves to it.
  •  avoid three things with special care: hatred, jealousy, and scorn.

On brawn and brains

  • how noble it is to be contented and not to be dependent upon Fortune. Therefore continually remind yourself, Lucilius, how many ambitions you have attained. When you see many ahead of you, think how many are behind!
  • Fix a limit which you will not even desire to pass
  • -why should I demand of Fortune that she give rather than demand of myself that I should not crave? And why should l crave? Shall I heap up my winnings, and forget that man’s lot is unsubstantial? For what end should I toil? Lo, today is the last; if not, it is near the last. Farewell.

On philosophy the guide of life

  • no man can live a happy life, or even a supportable life, without the study of wisdom
  • you know also that a happy life is reached when our wisdom is brought to completion, but that life is at least endurable even when our wisdom is only begun.
  •  it is more important for you to keep the resolutions you have already made than to go on and make noble ones. You must persevere, must develop new strength by continuous study, until that which is only a good inclination becomes a good settled purpose
  • whether Fate binds us down by an inexorable law, or whether God as arbiter of the universe has arranged everything, or whether Chance drives and tosses human affairs without method, philosophy ought to be our defence
  • Epicurus: “If you live according to nature, you will never be poor; if you live according to opinion, you will never be rich
  • If you find, after having travelled far, that there is a more distant goal always in view, you may be sure that this condition is contrary to nature

On philosophy and riches

  •  strive toward a sound mind at top speed and with your whole strength. If any bond holds you back, untie it, or sever it
  •  If you wish to have leisure for your mind, either be a poor man, or resemble a poor man. Study cannot be helpful unless you take pains to live simply

On festivals and fasting

  • Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?
  • It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress

On worldliness and retirement

  • There’s thunder even on the loftiest peaks

On practicing what you preach

  • life should not be out of harmony with his words, and that, further, his inner life should be of one hue and not out of harmony with all his activities
  • What is wisdom? Always desiring the same things, and always refusing the same things
  •  let your thoughts, your efforts, your desires, help to make you content with your own self and with the goods that spring from yourself

On the renown which my writings will bring you

  • Your greatest difficulty is with yourself; for you are your own stumbling-block. You do not know what you want
  • You see where the true happiness lies, but you have not the courage to attain it
  • you are held back by the lustre of your present life, from which it is your intention to depart, just as if you were about to fall into a state of filth and darkness. This is a mistake, Lucilius; to go from your present life into the other is a promotion

On the futility of halfway measures

  • for we are worse when we die than when we were born; but it is our fault, and not that of Nature. Nature should scold us, saying: “What does this mean? I brought you into the world without desires or fears, free from superstition, treachery and the other curses. Go forth as you were when you entered

On the true joy which comes from philosophy 

  • We have reached the heights if we know what it is that we find joy in and if we have not placed our happiness in the control of externals

On despising death

  • if you would put off all worry, assume that what you fear may happen will certainly happen in any event; whatever the trouble may be, measure it in your own mind, and estimate the amount of your fear. You will thus understand that what you fear is either insignificant or short-lived
  • For every day a little of our life is taken from us; even when we are growing, our life is on the wane. We lose our childhood, then our boyhood, and then our youth
  • “How long must I endure the same things? Shall I continue to wake and sleep, be hungry and be cloyed, shiver and perspire? There is an end to nothing; all things are connected in a sort of circle; they flee and they are pursued

On reformation

  • Do everything as if Epicurus were watching you.” There is no real doubt that it is good for one to have appointed a guardian over oneself, and to have someone whom you may look up to, someone whom you may regard as a witness of your thoughts

On old age and death

  • my mind is strong and rejoices that it has but slight connexion with the body. It has laid aside the greater part of its load

On the good which abides

  • I am not so shameless as to undertake to cure my fellow-men when I am ill myself  however, discussing with you troubles which concern us both, and sharing the remedy with you
  • “Real wealth is poverty adjusted to the law of Nature

On travel as a cure for discontent

  • After such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate
  • You wander hither and yon, to rid yourself of the burden that rests upon you, though it becomes more troublesome by reason of your very restlessness, just as in a ship the cargo when stationary makes no trouble, but when it shifts to this side or that, it causes the vessel to heel more quickly in the direction
  • The wise man will endure all that, but will not choose it
  • The knowledge of sin is the beginning of salvation
  • prove yourself guilty, hunt up charges against yourself; play the part, first of accuser, then of judge, last of intercessor. At times be harsh with yourself

On the critical condition of Marcellinus

  • He seldom comes to see me, for no other reason than that he is afraid to hear the truth
  •  his influence is weakened; it has too little effect upon those whom it might have set right if it had not grown so stale
  • what you think of yourself is much more to the point than what others think of you. The favour of ignoble men can be won only by ignoble means

On conquering the conqueror

  • Philosophy bestows this boon upon us; it makes us joyful in the very sight of death, strong and brave no matter in what state the body may be, cheerful and never failing though the body fail us

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s