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)
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)
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.
It was common to refer to philosophy itself as a medicine or therapy (therapeia) for the psyche, the soul or mind.
Here’s an interesting article from Donald Robertson (cognitive psychotherapist and author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor) on Marcus Aurelius, Stoicism and the roots of cognitive behavioural therapy: Marcus Aurelius in Therapy.
Continue reading “Stoicism and psychotherapy – @DonJRobertson”
We find ourselves in vexed and vexatious times. Let it go.
Stop fretting and stressing over things you can’t control.
It isn’t the things themselves that disturb people, but the judgements that they form about them.Epictetus (c.50 – 135), Handbook (5)
Continue reading “Let it go – ancient advice for modern times”
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)
Execupundit’s Michael Wade offers an excerpt from the Little Book of Stoicism:
No tree becomes deep-rooted and sturdy unless strong winds blow against it. This shaking and pulling is what makes the tree tighten its grip and plant its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those grown in a sunny valley. “Why then,” asks Seneca, “do you wonder that good men are shaken…
Read the rest, here.
Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash
In your conversation, avoid talking at length or overmuch about your own exploits or the dangers that you’ve faced; for pleasant though it may be for you to recall your perils, it is not as for others to listen to everything that has happened to you.
Epictetus (c.50 – 135), Handbook (14)
He who dies merely because of pain is weak and lazy; he who lives merely for pain is a fool.
Seneca (4 BC – AD 65), Moral Letters to Lucilius (58.36)
Lay down from this moment a certain character and pattern of behaviour for yourself, which you are to preserve both when you’re alone and when you’re with others.
Epictetus (c.50 – 135), Handbook (33.1)