Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and dramatist. He was a tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. He was forced to take his own life for alleged complicity in the conspiracy to assassinate Nero. However, some sources state that he may have been innocent.
There’s no difference between the one and the other - you didn’t exist and you won’t exist - you’ve got no concern with either period.
As it is with a play, so it is with life - what matters is not how long the acting lasts, but how good it is. It is not important at what point you stop. Stop wherever you will - only make sure that you round it off with a good ending.
There are times when even to live is an act of bravery.
So there is the comforting thing about extremities of pain: if you feel it too much you are bound to stop feeling it.
The love of power or money or luxurious living are not the only things which are guided by popular thinking. We take our cue from people’s thinking even in the way we feel pain.
Another thing which will help you is to turn your mind to other thoughts and that way get away from your suffering. Call to mind things which you have done that have been upright or courageous; run over in your mind the finest parts you have played.
‘But my illness has taken me away from my duties and won’t allow me to achieve anything.’ It is your body, not your mind as well, that is in the grip of ill health.
Drunkenness inflames and lays bare every vice, removing the reserve that acts as a chuck on impulses to wrong behaviour.
...pleasures, when they go beyond a certain limit, are but punishments…
So I look for the best and am prepared for the opposite.
There is nothing dangerous in a man’s having as much power as he likes if he takes the view that he has power to do only what it is his duty to do.
The things that are essential are acquired with little bother; it is the luxuries that call for toil and effort.
One thing I know: all the works of mortal man lie under sentence of mortality; we live among things that are destined to perish.
A setback has often cleared the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to more exalted heights.
When it comes to all we’re required to go through, we’re equals. No one is more vulnerable than the next man, and no one can be more sure of his surviving to the morrow.
And no one has power over us when death is within our own power.
The man who spends his time choosing one resort after another in a hunt for peace and quiet, will in every place he visits find something to prevent him from relaxing.
Now think of the things which goad man into destroying man: they are hope, envy, hatred, fear and contempt.
...to be feared is to fear: no one has been able to strike terror into others and at the same time enjoy peace of mind himself.
People who know no self-restraint lead stormy and disordered lives, passing their time in a state of fear commensurate with the injuries they do to others, never able to relax. After every act they tremble, paralysed, their consciences continually demanding an answer, not allowing them to get on with other things. To expect punishment is to suffer it; and to earn it is to expect it.
Others have been plundered, indiscriminately, set upon, betrayed, beaten up, attacked with poison or with calumny - mention anything you like, it has happened to plenty of people.
Every day as it comes should be welcomed and reduced forthwith into our own possession as if it were the finest day imaginable. What flies past has to be seized at.
My advice is really this: what we hear the philosophers saying and what we find in their writings should be applied in our pursuit of the happy life. We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching, and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application - not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech - and learn them so well that words become works.
...nothing is burdensome if taken lightly, and how… nothing need arouse one’s irritation so long as one doesn’t make it bigger than it is by getting irritated.
My baker may be out of bread, but the farm manager will have some, or the steward, or a tenant. ‘Bad bread, yes!’ you’ll say. Wait, then: it’ll soon turn into good bread. Hunger will make you find even that bread soft and wheaty.
It is essential to make oneself used to putting up with a little. Even the wealthy and the well provided are continually met and frustrated by difficult times and situations. It is in no man’s power to have whatever he wants; but he has it in his power not to wish for what he hasn’t got, and cheerfully make the most of the things that do come his way.
And a stomach firmly under control, one that will put up with hard usage, marks a considerable step towards independence.
Glory’s an empty, changeable thing, as fickle as the weather. Poverty’s no evil to anyone unless he kicks against it. Death is not an evil. What is it then? The one law mankind has that is free of all discrimination. Superstition is an idiotic heresy: it fears those it should love: it dishonours those it worships. For what difference does it make whether you deny the gods or bring them into disrepute?
More Seneca quotes coming soon...