The One and the Many


Here are some quotes I liked from three texts by Seneca.

On the shortness of life

"You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don't notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply - though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last."

"Believe me, it is the sign of a great man, and one who is above human error, not to allow his time to be frittered away: he has the longest possible life simply because whatever time was available he devoted entirely to himself."

"Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present."

"But the man who spends all his time on his own needs, who organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day."

"So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long."

"But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future."

"But for those whose life is far removed from all business it must be amply long."

"So this one is not at leisure, and you must give him another description - he is ill, or even, he is dead: the man who is really at leisure is also aware of it."

"They are not at leisure whose pleasures involve a serious commitment."

"Of all people only those who are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only those are really alive."

"They lose the day in waiting for the night, and the night in fearing the dawn."

"When you are retired and enjoying peace of mind, you will find to keep you busy more important activities than all those you have performed so energetically up to now."

"In this kind of life you will find much that is worth your study: the love and practice of the virtues, forgetfulness of the passions, the knowledge of how to live and die, and a life of deep tranquility."

Consolation of Helvia

"No man is despised by another unless he is first despised by himself."

On tranquility of mind

Some of my thoughts on it:

Intends virtues but with good intentions only. Weak.

Core malady: Dissatisfaction with self.

Bored, desires change, yearning for the past, apathetic, inertia, "lethargy of a soul stagnating amid its abandoned hopes".

There are those who cannot enjoy leisure as they are too taken by busy activities.

"If you apply yourself to study you will avoid all boredom with life, you will not long for night because you are sick of daylight, you will be neither a burden to yourself nor useless to others, you will attract many to become your friends and the finest people will flock about you"

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

"So the ideal amount of money is that which neither falls within the range of poverty nor far exceeds it."

"Let us learn to increase our self-restraint, to curb luxury, to moderate ambition, to soften anger, to regard poverty without prejudice, to practise 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."

"'What can happen to one can happen to all.'"

"The next thing to ensure is that we do not waste our energies pointlessly or in pointless activities: that is, not to long either for what we cannot achieve, or for what, once gained, only makes us realize too late and after much exertion the futility of our desires"

"So let all your activity be directed to some object, let it have some end in view."

"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."