On Tranquillity of Mind – by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

If you devote to your studies the time you have taken from your public duties you will not have deserted or evaded your task.

If you apply yourself to study you will avoid all boredom with life, you will not long for night because you are sick of daylight, you will be neither a burden to yourself nor useless to others, you will attract many to become your friends and the finest people will flock about you. For even obscure virtue is never concealed but gives visible evidence of herself: anyone worthy of her will follow her tracks.

Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.

We shall either extend or contract our activities; but at all events we shall stir ourselves and not be gripped and paralysed by fear.

If you happen to live at a time when public life is hard to cope with, you will just have to claim more time for leisure and literary work, seek a safe harbour from time to time as if you were on a dangerous voyage, and not wait for public life to dismiss you but voluntarily release yourself from it first.

You must set your hands to tasks which you can finish or at least hope to finish, and avoid those which get bigger as you proceed and do not cease where you had intended.

We must be especially careful in choosing people, and deciding whether they are worth devoting a part of our lives to them, whether the sacrifice of our time makes a difference to them.

You must consider whether your nature is more suited to practical activity or to quiet study and reflection, and incline in the direction your natural faculty and disposition take you.

Though a man’s kindness and loyalty may not be in doubt, a companion who is agitated and groaning about everything is an enemy to peace of mind.

Private possessions, the greatest source of human misery.

The ideal amount of money is that which neither falls within the range of poverty nor far exceeds it.

To aim to acquire our riches from ourselves rather than from Fortune.

You have to get used to your circumstances, complain about them as little as possible, and grasp whatever advantage they have to offer: no condition is so bitter that a stable mind cannot find some consolation in it.

Think your way through difficulties: hash conditions can be softened, restriced ones can be widened, and heavy ones can weigh less on those who know how to bear them.

He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man. But he who knows that this was the condition laid down for him at the moment of his conception will live on those terms, and at the same time he will guarantee with a similar strength of mind that no events take him by surprise. For by foreseeing anything that can happen, as though it will happen, he will soften the onslaught of all his troubles, which present no surprises to those who are ready and waiting for them, but fall heavily on those who are careless in the expectation that all will be well. There is disease, imprisonment, disaster, fire: none of these is unexpected – I did know in what riotous company Nature had enclosed me.

What can happen to one can happen to all. If you let this idea sink into your vitals, and regard all the ills of other people as having a clear path to you too, you will be armed long before you are attacked. It is too late for the mind to equip itself to endure dangers once they are already there. ‘I didn’t think it would happen’ and ‘Would you ever have believed it would turn out so?’ Why ever not? Are there any riches which are not pursued by poverty and hunger and beggary?

Many people live a life like these creatures, and you could not unjustly call it busy idleness.

Let all your activity be directed to some object, let it have some end in view. It is not industry that makes men restless, but false impressions of things drive them mad.

In any case the mind must be recalled from external objects into itself: it must trust in itself, rejoice in itself, admire its own things; it must withdraw as much as possible from the affairs of others and devote its attention to itself; it must not feel losses and should take a kindly view even of misfortunes.

It is better to be despised for simplicity than to suffer agonies from everlasting pretence.

The mind should not be kept continuously at the same pitch of concentration, but given amusing diversions.

We must indulge the mind and from time to time allow it the leisure which is its food and strength. We must go for walks out of doors, so that the mind can be strengthened and invigorated by a clear sky and plenty of fresh air. At times it will acquire fresh energy from a journey by carriage and a change of scene, or from socializing and drinking freely. Occasionally we should even come to the point of intoxication, sinking into drink but not being totally flooded by it; for it does wash away cares, and stirs the mind to its depths, and heals sorrow just as it heals certain diseases.

One response to On Tranquillity of Mind – by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

  1. 

    A very succinct summary, thanks.

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