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Quotations --- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

 

 

The burden should be fitted to our strength, nor should more work be undertaken than we can fairly carry through.

 

Armed hands observe no limit.

 

The arts are the servants of life; wisdom its master.

 

There is this difference between the products of the artist and of the craftsman : the artist produces what he himself finds good, the craftsman what is profitable. Phidias, for instance, finished his work with the greatest care, even though he did not sell it."

 

True happiness is centred in virtue.

 

No one can be called happy who is living a life of falsehood.

 

Wealth is the slave of a wise man, the master of a fool.

 

To live happily is the same thing as to live in accordance with nature's laws.

 

Men are readier to believe their eyes than their ears.

 

It is easier to keep out of a quarrel than to get out of one.

 

No one can rule who cannot also submit to authority.

 

Neither praise nor blame too quickly: always think that you are giving witness before the gods.

 

Speech is the mirror of the mind.

 

Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.

 

Whom they have injured they also hate.

 

If we desire to judge all things justly, we must first persuade ourselves that none of us is without sin.

 

No ruler can be so confident of peace as to neglect to prepare for war.

 

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.

 

Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.

 

Hang on to your youthful enthusiasms -- you’ll be able to use them better when you’re older.

 

We learn not in the school, but in life.

 

A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.

 

He who spares the wicked injures the good.

 

To wish to be well is a part of becoming well.

 

It is difficult to bring people to goodness with lessons, but it is easy to do so by example.

 

Associate with people who are likely to improve you.

 

Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune's control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

 

True happiness is to understand our duties toward God and man; to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence on the future; not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears, but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is abundantly sufficient.

 

The time will come when diligent research over periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden...Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memories of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has something for every age to investigate. Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all.

 

What is harder than rock? What is softer than water? Yet hard rocks are hollowed out by soft water.

 

And this, too, affords no small occasion for anxieties - if you are bent on assuming a pose and never reveal yourself to anyone frankly, in the fashion of many who live a false life that is all made up for show; for it is torturous to be constantly watching oneself and be fearful of being caught out of our usual role. And we are never free from concern if we think that every time anyone looks at us he is always taking our measure; for many things happen that strip off our pretence against our will, and, though all this attention to self is successful, yet the life of those who live under a mask cannot be happy and without anxiety. But how much pleasure there is in simplicity that is pure, in itself unadorned, and veils no part of its character! Yet even such a life as this does run some risk of scorn, if everything lies open to everybody; for there are those who disdain whatever has become too familiar. But neither does virtue run any risk of being despised when she is brought close to the eyes, and it is better to be scorned by reason of simplicity than tortured by perpetual pretence.

 

It does not matter how many books you have, but how good the books are which you have.

 

We should every night call ourselves to an account;
What infirmity have I mastered today?
What passions opposed? What temptation resisted? What virtue acquired? Our vices will abort of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift.

 

We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.

 

The best ideas are common property.

 

For it is dangerous to attach one's self to the crowd, and so long as each one of us is more willing to trust another than to judge for himself, we never show any judgement in the matter of living, but always a blind trust, and a mistake that has been passed on from hand to hand finally involves us and works our destruction. It is the example of other people that is our undoing; let us merely separate ourselves from the crowd, and we shall be made whole. But as it is, the populace, defending its own iniquity, pits itself against reason. And so we see the same thing happening that happens at the elections, where, when the fickle breeze of popular favour has shifted, the very same persons who chose the praetors wonder that those praetors were chosen.

 

“we cease to be so angry once we cease to be so hopeful”

 

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.

 

 Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.

 

We are mad, not only individually but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders, but what of war and the much-vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples?

 

It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.

 

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

 

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

 

All cruelty springs from weakness.

 

To the stars through difficulties.

 

Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.

 

 As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.

 

There is no easy way from the earth to the stars.

 

It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.

 

No man was ever wise by chance.

 

Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.

 

Life is like a play: it's not the length, but the excellence of the acting that matters.

 

 It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.

 

He who is brave is free.

 

Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.

 

Only time can heal what reason cannot.

 

They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.

 

Leisure without books is death, and burial of a man alive.

 

 For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast - a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it?
A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.

 

 He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.

 

When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.

 

The mind that is anxious about future events is miserable.

 

 Throw aside all hindrances and give up your time to attaining a sound mind.

 

No man is crushed by misfortune unless he has first been deceived by prosperity.

 

I am not born for one corner; the whole world is my native land.

 

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.

 

As long as you live, keep learning how to live.

 

And what’s so bad about your being deprived of that?... All things seem unbearable to people who have become spoilt, who have become soft through a life of luxury, ailing more in the mind than they ever are in the body.

 

 As Lucretius says: 'Thus ever from himself doth each man flee.' But what does he gain if he does not escape from himself? He ever follows himself and weighs upon himself as his own most burdensome companion. And so we ought to understand that what we struggle with is the fault, not of the places, but of ourselves.

 

 It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.

 

 What difference does it make how much is laid away in a man's safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another's and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he has already? You ask what is the proper limit to a person's wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.

 

 Do not run hither and thither and distract yourself by changing your abode; for such restlessness is the sign of a disordered spirit.

 

 A physician is not angry at the intemperance of a mad patient; nor does he take it ill to be railed at by a man in a fever. Just so should a wise man treat all mankind, as a physician does his patient; and looking upon them only as sick and extravagant.

 

The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.

 

It's not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.

 

An age builds up cities: an hour destroys them. In a moment the ashes are made, but a forest is a long time growing.

 

All the greatest blessings are a source of anxiety, and at no time should fortune be less trusted than when it is best; to maintain prosperity there is need of other prosperity, and in behalf of the prayers that have turned out well we must make still other prayers. For everything that comes to us from chance is unstable, and the higher it rises, the more liable it is to fall. Moreover, what is doomed to perish brings pleasure to no one; very wretched, therefore, and not merely short, must the life of those be who work hard to gain what they must work harder to keep. By great toil they attain what they wish, and with anxiety hold what they have attained; meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return.


Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well; and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day.

 

Fidelity purchased with money, money can destroy.


Why do I not rather seek some real good - one which I could feel, not one which I could display? These things that draw the eyes of men, before which they halt, which they show to one another in wonder, outwardly glitter, but are worthless within.

 

Life, if you know how to use it, is long; but…many, following no fixed aim, shifting and… dissatisfied, are plunged by their fickleness into plans that are ever new; some have no fixed principle by which to direct their course.

 

Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.

 

Men do not care how nobly they live, but only for how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man’s power to live long.

 

Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate. [...] Do you ask why such flight does not help you? It is because you flee along with yourself. You must lay aside the burdens of the mind; until you do this, no place will satisfy you.

 

For manliness gains much strength by being challenged.

 

People who know no self-restraint lead stormy and disordered lives, passing their time in a state of fear commensurate with the injuries they do to others, never able to relax.

 

 There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with.

 

 It is the quality of a great soul to scorn great things and to prefer that which is ordinary rather than that which is too great.

 

You should rather suppose that those are involved in worthwhile duties who wish to have daily as their closest friends Zeno, Pythagoras, Democritus and all the other high priests of liberal studies, and Aristotle and Theophrastus. None of these will be too busy to see you, none of these will not send his visitor away happier and more devoted to himself, none of these will allow anyone to depart empty-handed. They are at home to all mortals by night and by day.

 

What fortune has made yours is not your own.

 

"They strive to attain their wishes by every available means, instructing and compelling themselves to dishonest and difficult acts. And when their labour is without reward, it is the fruitless disgrace that tortures them - they are not grieved to have desired evil things but to have desired in vain. Then remorse for what they began lays hold of them, and the fear of beginning again, and thence creeps in the agitation of mind which can find no relief - because neither can they rule nor can they obey their desires. And then comes the hesitancy of a life failing to clear a way for itself, and the dull wasting of a soul lying torpid amidst forsaken hopes.”

 

You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.

 

"Life will follow the path it started upon, and will neither reverse nor check its course; it will make no noise, it will not remind you of its swiftness. Silent it will glide on; it will not prolong itself at the command of a king, or at the applause of the populace. Just as it was started on its first day, so it will run; nowhere will it turn aside, nowhere will it delay.”


 

“the mind is never right but when it is at peace with itself”


 

Mankind is perpetually the victim of a pointless and futile martydom, fretting life away in fruitless worries though failure to realise what limit is set to acquisition and to the growth of genuine pleasure.


 

It is a great man that can treat his earthenware as if it was silver, and a man who treats his silver as if it was earthenware is no less great.

 

Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear. ‘Cease to hope … and you will cease to fear.’ … Widely different [as fear and hope] are, the two of them march in unison like a prisoner and the escort he is handcuffed to. Fear keeps pace with hope … both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.

 

Philosophy calls for simple living, not for doing penance, and the simple way of life need not be a crude one.

 

Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We've been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.

 

It is the sign of a weak mind to be unable to bear wealth.

 

He will live ill who does not know how to die well.

 

But only philosophy will wake us; only philosophy will shake us out of that heavy sleep. Devote yourself entirely to her. You're worthy of her, she's worthy of you-fall into each other's arms. Say a firm, plain no to every other occupation.

 

For many men, the acquisition of wealth does not end their troubles, it only changes them.

 

We must limit the running to and fro which most men practise, rambling about houses, theatres, and marketplaces. They mind other men's business, and always seem as though they themselves had something to do. If you ask one of them as he comes out of his own door, "Whither are you going?" he will answer, "By Hercules, I do not know: but I shall see some people and do something." They wander purposelessly seeking for something to do, and do, not what they have made up their minds to do, but what has casually fallen in their way. They move uselessly and without any plan, just like ants crawling over bushes, which creep up to the top and then down to the bottom again without gaining anything. Many men spend their lives in exactly the same fashion, which one may call a state of restless indolence.

 

 Of this one thing make sure against your dying day - that your faults die before you do.

 

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.

 

But nothing will help quite so much as just keeping quiet, talking with other people as little as possible, with yourself as much as possible. For conversation has a kind of charm about it, an insinuating and insidious something that elicits secrets from us just like love or liquor. Nobody will keep the things he hears to himself, and nobody will repeat just what he hears and no more. Neither will anyone who has failed to keep a story to himself keep the name of his informant to himself. Every person without exception has someone to whom he confides everything that is confided to himself. Even supposing he puts some guard in his garrulous tongue and is content with a single pair of ears, he will still be the creator of a host of later listeners – such is the way in which what was but a little while before a secret becomes common rumor.

 

His eyes blaze and sparkle, his whole face is crimson with blood that surges from the lowest depths of the heart, his lips quiver, his teeth are clenched, his hair bristles and stands on end, his breathing is forced and harsh, his joints crack from writhing, he groans and bellows, bursts out into speech with scarcely intelligible words, strikes his hands together continually, and stamps the ground with his feet; his whole body is excited and performs great angry threats; it is an ugly and horrible picture of distorted and swollen frenzy - you cannot tell if this vice is more execrable or more hideous.

 

A guilty person sometimes has the luck to escape detection, but never to feel sure of it.

 

Diligence is a very great help even to a mediocre intelligence.

 

When a mind is impressionable and has none too firm a hold on what is right, it must be rescued from the crowd: it is so easy for it to go over to the majority.

 

Cling, therefore, to this sound and wholesome plan of life; indulge the body just so far as suffices for good health. ... Your food should appease your hunger, your drink quench your thirst, your clothing keep out the cold, your house be a protection against inclement weather. It makes no difference whether it is built of turf or variegated marble imported from another country: what you have to understand is that thatch makes a person just as good a roof as gold.

 

Spurn everything that is added by way of decoration and display by unneccesary labour. Relect that nothing merits admiration except the spirit, the impressiveness of which prevents it from being impressed by anything.

 

Barley porridge, or a crust of barley bread, and water do not make a very cheerful diet, but nothing gives one keener pleasure than having the ability to derive pleasure even from that -- and the feeling of having arrived at something which one cannot be deprived of by any unjust stroke of fortune.

 

Away with the world’s opinion of you – it’s always unsettled and divided. Away with the pursuits that have occupied the whole of your life – death is going to deliver the verdict in your case. ... It’s only when you’re breathing your last that the way you’ve spent your time will become apparent.

 

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.

 

However much you possess there's someone else who has more, and you'll be fancying yourself to be short of things you need to the exact extent to which you lag behind him.

 

Words need to be sown like seeds. No matter how tiny a seed may be, when it lands in the right sort of ground it unfolds its strength and from being minute expands and grows to a massive size.

 

The man who spends his time choosing one resort after another in a hunt for peace and quiet will in every place he visits find something to prevent him from relaxing.

 

The trip doesn’t exist that can set you beyond the reach of cravings, fits of temper, or fears … so long as you carry the sources of your troubles about with you, those troubles will continue to harass and plague you wherever you wander on land or on sea. Does it surprise you that running away doesn’t do you any good? The things you’re running away from are with you all the time.

 

So long, in fact, as you remain in ignorance of what to aim at and what to avoid, what is essential and what is superfluous, what is upright or honorable conduct and what is not, it will not be travelling but drifting. All this hurrying from place to place won’t bring you any relief, for you’re travelling in the company of your own emotions, followed by your troubles all the way.

 

Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present.

 


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