The rough clothes, the rank growth of hair and beard, the sworn hatred of silverware, the pallet laid on the ground: all these and any other perverse form of self-aggrandisement are things you should avoid…
The life we endeavour to live should be better than the general practice, not contrary to it…
Philosophy demands self-restraint, not self-abnegation – and even self-restraint can comb its hair.
Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), Moral Letters to Lucilius (5.2 – 5.5)
Worth a re-post in these locked down times.
A person is alive when he is of use to many; he is alive when he is of use to himself. Slackers who hide out at home might as well be in the tomb. Go ahead and write it in marble above their door:
Preceded in death by themselves.
Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), Moral Letters to Lucilius (60.4)
What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.
Viktor E. Frankl (1905 – 1997), Man’s Search for Meaning (p110)
Note: the translation I have is “striving and struggling”, but I’ve also seen it translated as “What man needs is not a tensionless state, but rather a striving struggle for a worthwhile goal.” which I think I prefer.
A bull is filled up by only a few acres of pasturage; a single wood suffices for more than one elephant; yet a human being feeds upon land and sea. Why is that? Has nature given us such an insatiable maw that although the bodies we are given are of modest size, we yet surpass the largest, most ravenous eaters of the animal world? That is not the case … It is not bodily hunger that runs up the bill but ambition. Therefore let us regard those who, as Sallust says, “heed the belly” as belonging to the race of animals rather than of humans.
Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), Moral Letters to Lucilius (60.2 – 4)
Without music, life would be a mistake.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900), Twilight of the Idols (Maxims and Arrows, 33)
Why make ourselves worse than little children? When they are left alone, what do they do? They gather up shards and dust and build something or other, then tear it down and build something else again; and so they are never at a loss as to how to spend their time. Am I, then, if you set sail, to sit down and cry because I am left alone and forlorn in that fashion? Shan’t I have shards, shan’t I have dust?
Epictetus (c.50 – 135), Handbook (3.13)
Note: the above translation comes from the very fine Daily Stoic newsletter.
“Life itself is an exile. The way home is not the way back.”
Colin Wilson (1931 – 2013)
Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash
Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. Our government does not copy our neighbors’, but is an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while there exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty an obstacle, but a man may benefit his country whatever the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.
Thucydides 460 – 400 BC), Pericles’ Funeral Oration
Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past – let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963), Speech at Loyola College Alumni Banquet, Baltimore, Maryland, 18 February, 1958
When you’ve decided that you ought to do something and are doing it, never try to avoid being seen to do it, even if most people will probably view it with disapproval; for if it isn’t right to do it, avoid doing it in the first place, but if it is, why be afraid of those who’ll reproach you without justification.
Epictetus (c.50 – 135), Handbook (35)