Seneca on Saturday — Relative Poverty and Other Imagined Dangers

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Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger,

Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger in Cordoba, Spain, by Amadeo Ruiz Olmos

CIV. ON CARE OF HEALTH AND PEACE OF MIND

Suppose that you hold wealth to be a good: poverty will then distress you, and,  —which is most pitiable,— it will be an imaginary poverty. For you may be rich, and nevertheless, because your neighbour is richer, you suppose yourself to be poor exactly by the same amount in which you fall short of your neighbour. You may deem official position a good; you will be vexed at another’s appointment or re-appointment to the consulship; you will be jealous whenever you see a name several times in the state records. Your ambition will be so frenzied that you will regard yourself last in the race if there is anyone in front of you. Or you may rate death as the worst of evils, although there is really no evil therein except that which precedes death’s coming —fear. You will be frightened out of your wits, not only by real, but by fancied dangers, and will be tossed for ever on the sea of illusion…

For peace itself will furnish further apprehension. Even in the midst of safety you will have no confidence if your mind has once been given a shock; once it has acquired the habit of blind panic, it is incapable of providing even for its own safety. For it does not avoid danger, but runs away. Yet we are more exposed to danger when we turn our backs.

Seneca Epistles 93-124, Translation by Richard Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.

Photo credit: Gunnar Bach Pedersen, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Seneca on Sunday — on ripe fruit

still-life-with-skull-1898.jpg!Blog

Still Life With Skull, by Paul Cezanne. Image courtesy of WikiArt

Epistle XII. On Old Age

Let us cherish and love old age; for it is full of pleasure if one knows how to use it. Fruits are most welcome when almost over; youth is most charming at its close; the last drink delights the toper,– the glass which souses him and puts the finishing touch on his drunkenness. Each pleasure reserves to the end the greatest delights which it contains. Life is most delightful when it is on the downward slope, but has not yet reached the abrupt decline… Or else the very fact of our not wanting pleasures has taken the place the pleasures themselves. How comforting it is to have tired out one’s appetites, and to have done with them! “But,” you say, “it is a nuisance to be looking death in the face!” Death, however, should be looked in the face by young and old alike. We are not summoned according to our rating on the censor’s list. Moreover, no one is so old that it would be improper for him to hope for another day of existence. And one day, mind you, is a stage on life’s journey.

Seneca Epistles 1-65, Translation by Richard Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.

Seneca on Saturday — on what is enough

Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger,

Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger in Cordoba, Spain, by Amadeo Ruiz Olmos

EPISTLE IV: On the terrors of death

…It is the superfluous things for which men sweat,–the superfluous things that wear our togas threadbare, that force us to grow old in camp, that dash us upon foreign shores. That which is enough is ready to our hands. He who has made a fair compact with poverty is rich. Farewell.

Seneca Epistles 1-65, Translation by Richard Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.

Photo credit: Gunnar Bach Pedersen, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.