The primary indication, to my thinking, of a well-ordered mind is a man’s ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company.
Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65), Moral Letters to Lucilius (Letter 2, paragraph 1)
I love this quote from Seneca, via The Daily Stoic’s newsletter:
How long will you be compelled by the claims of another? Take charge and stake your own claim — something posterity will carry in its notebook.
It comes from Seneca’s Moral Letters to Lucilius (Letter 33, paragraph 7 – he wrote a lot of letters).
I’m not sure where the translation comes from. I read it in the Daily Stoic newsletter, and also find it on The Mission (on Medium, here). In fuller version, the passage reads:
“For it’s disgraceful for an old person, or one in sight of old age, to have only the knowledge carried in their notebooks. Zeno said this . . . what do you say? Cleanthes said that . . . what do you say? How long will you be compelled by the claims of another? Take charge and stake your own claim — something posterity will carry in its notebook.”
That is why we give to children a proverb, or that which the Greeks call Chria, to be learned by heart; that sort of thing can be comprehended by the young mind, which cannot as yet hold more. For a man, however, whose progress is definite, to chase after choice extracts and to prop his weakness by the best known and the briefest sayings and to depend upon his memory, is disgraceful; it is time for him to lean on himself. He should make such maxims and not memorize them. For it is disgraceful even for an old man, or one who has sighted old age, to have a note-book knowledge. “This is what Zeno said.” But what have you yourself said? “This is the opinion of Cleanthes.” But what is your own opinion? How long shall you march under another man’s orders? Take command, and utter some word which posterity will remember. Put forth something from your own stock.
For words to live by, though, I’ll go with the Daily Stoic:
Take charge and stake your own claim — something posterity will carry in its notebook.
And, for a spot of random association, it reminds me of this line from the classic Warren Zevon song, The French Inhaler:
And when the lights came up at two
I caught a glimpse of you
And your face looked like something
Death brought with him in his suitcase.
I can’t find a decent live version online, but here’s the original:
And, in fairness, I don’t think Warren was a stoic.
‘If thou wouldst know contentment, let thy deeds by few,’ said the sage. … Most of what we say and do is not necessary, and its omission would save both time and trouble. At every step, therefore, a man should ask himself, ‘Is this one of the things that are superfluous?’ Moreover, not idle actions only but even idle impressions ought to be suppressed; for then unnecessary action will not ensue.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (4.24)
I travel the roads of nature until the hour when I shall lie down and be at rest; yielding back my last breath into the air from which I have drawn it daily, and sinking down upon the earth from which my father derived the seed, my mother the blood, and my nurse the milk of my being – the earth which for so many years has furnished my daily meat and drink, and, though so grievously abused, still suffers me to tread its surface.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (5.4)
Observe how all things are continually being born of change; teach yourself to see that Nature’s highest happiness lies in changing the things that are, and forming new things after their kind. Whatever is, is in some sense the seed of what is to emerge from it. Nothing can become a philosopher less than to imagine that seed can only be something that is planted in the earth or the womb.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (4.36)
Everything that happens is as normal and expected as the spring rose or the summer fruit; this is true of sickness, death, slander, intrigue, and all the other things that delight or trouble foolish men.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (4.44)
Particularly pertinent for our times.
In the life of man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapours; life a warfare, a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute, oblivion.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations, Book 2, verse 17