What fortune makes your own is not your own.
Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), Moral Letters to Lucilius (8.10)
One cannot attain a life free of anxiety if one is too concerned about prolonging it…
For fear of the final hour makes all our other hours uneasy.
Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), Moral Letters to Lucilius (1.4)
Think of the totality of all Being, and what a mite of it is yours; think of all Time, and the brief fleeting instant of it that is allotted to yourself; think of Destiny, and how puny a part of it you are.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (5.24)
I also quite like the Gregory Hays’ translation of this:
Matter. How tiny your share of it.
Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it.
Fate. How small a role you play in it.
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)
Each of us needs what nature gives us, when nature gives it.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (10.20)
Note: I usually quote the Maxwell Staniforth translation from the Penguin Great Ideas edition. However, for this I preferred the more recent (and much lauded) Gregory Hays translation from 2003.
Let your mind constantly dwell on all Time and all Being, and thus learn that each separate thing is but as a grain of sand in comparison with Being, and as a single crew’s-turn in comparison with Time.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (10.17)
A Man In Full was my first Tom Wolfe novel. It had been on my Must Read list for a few years and, when Tom Wolfe died, I finally ordered a copy.
It’s a beautifully observed, beautifully written book that shows you its worlds through the eyes of each character, immersing you in their perceptions and prejudices.
It is often referenced because of its use of Stoic philosophy and that seems to come on two levels.
There’s the slap-in-the-face-obvious storyline of a man in his hour of darkest need, who comes across a Magic Book. The constant references thereafter to Zeus play to this surface reading, so I guess that may have been Wolfe’s intent.
However, at a more interesting and subtle level, all of the main characters go through something of a Stoic revelation. In each arc, we see and experience their own version of “being a man”, from former football hero and real-estate mogul Charlie Croker’s trophy-wifed, quail-hunting, plantation-owning, machismo, through Roger White’s educated, elegant, professional career, to young Conrad’s desperation to provide for his family. As the story progresses, each evolves a different – and perhaps more Stoic – view of what it means to be a “man in full”.
I enjoyed it enormously, yet I came away feeling slightly let down by the final 100 pages or so (of 740). They felt rushed and, I suppose, I wanted a slightly different ending.
That said, it’s well worth a read over the summer.