On the Shortness of Life by Seneca (Part 3)

71 – ‘Where is the need,’ I ask, ‘to compose something to last for ages? Why not stop trying to prevent posterity being silent about you? You were born to die, and a silent funeral is less bothersome. So if you must fill your time, write something in a simple style for your own use and not for publication: less toil is needed if you study only for the day.’

79 – Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.

85 – Still, you must especially avoid those who are gloomy and always lamenting, and who grasp at every pretext for complaint.

85 – For you are mistaken if you think that rich people suffer with more fortitude: the pain of a wound is the same in the largest and smallest bodies.

88 – Let us learn to increase our self-restraint, to curb luxury, to moderate ambition, to soften anger, to regard poverty without prejudice, to practice frugality, even if many are ashamed of it, to apply to nature’s needs the remedies that are cheaply available, to curb as if in fetters unbridled hopes and a mind obsessed with the future, and to aim to acquire our riches from ourselves rather than from Fortune.

90 – In any situation in life you will find delights and relaxations and pleasures if you are prepared to make light of your troubles and not let them distress you.

91 – Moreover, we must not send our desires on a distant hunt, but allow them to explore what is near to hand, since they do not submit to being totally confined. Abandoning those things which are impossible or difficult to attain, let us pursue what is readily available and entices our hopes, yet recognize that all are equally trivial, outwardly varied in appearance but uniformly futile within.

91 – And let us no envy those who stand higher than we do: what look like towering heights are precipices.

94 – What can happen to one can happen to all.

98 – In any case the mind must be recalled from external objects into itself: it must trust in itself, rejoice in itself, admire its own things; it must withdraw as much as possible from the affairs of others and devote its attention to itself…

98 – When a shipwreck was reported and he heard that all his possessions had sunk, our founder Zeno said, ‘Fortune bids me to be a less encumbered philosopher.’

100 – … for sometimes we are gripped by a hatred of the human race. When you consider how rare is simplicity and how unknown is innocence, how you scarcely ever find loyalty except when it is expedient, what a host of succesful crimes you come across, and all the things equally hateful that men gain and lose though lust, and how ambition is now so far from setting limits to itself that it acquired a lustre from viciousness – all this drives the mind into a darkness whose shadows overwhelm it…

101 – So we should make light of all things and endure them with tolerance: it is more civilized to make fun of life than to bewail it.

103 – We should also withdraw a lot into ourselves; for associating with people unlike ourselves upsets a calm disposition, stirs up passions again, and aggravates any mental weakness which has not been completely cured.

104 – … solitude will cure our distaste for a crowd, and a crowd will cure our boredom with solitude.


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