Do not copy the bad simply because they are many,
Nor hate the many because they are unlike you.
Do you ask me what you should regard as especially to be avoided? I say,
for as yet you cannot trust yourself to them with safety.
I shall admit my own weakness, at any rate; for I never bring back home the same character that I took abroad with me. Something of that which I have forced to be calm within me is disturbed; some of the foes that I have routed return again.
To consort with the crowd is harmful;
there is no person who does not make some vice attractive to us, or stamp it upon us, or taint us unconsciously therewith.
Certainly, the greater the mob with which we mingle, the greater the danger.
But nothing is so damaging to good character as the habit of lounging at the games; for then it is that vice steals subtly upon one through the avenue of pleasure.
What do you think I mean? I mean that I come home more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous, & even more cruel & inhuman,
– because I have been among human beings.
Come now; do you not understand even this truth, that a bad example reacts on the agent?
The young character, which cannot hold fast to righteousness, must be rescued from the mob; it is too easy to side with the majority.
Even Socrates, Cato, & Laelius might have been shaken in their moral strength by a crowd that was unlike them; so true it is that none of us, no matter how much One cultivates their abilities, can withstand the shock of faults that approach, as it were, with so great a retinue.
Much harm is done by a single case of indulgence or greed;
the familiar friend, if they be luxurious, weakens & softens us imperceptibly;
the neighbour, if they be rich, rouses our covetousness;
the companion, if they be slanderous, rubs off some of their rust upon us, even though we be spotless & sincere.
What then do you think the effect will be on character, when the world at large assaults it!
You must either imitate or loathe the world.
But both courses are to be avoided;
Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better person of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve. The process is mutual; for people learn while they teach.
There is no reason why pride in advertising your abilities should lure you into publicity, so that you should desire to recite or harangue before the general public.
One or two individuals will perhaps come in your way, but even these will have to be molded & trained by you so that they will understand you.
You may say: “For what purpose did I learn all these things?”
But you need not fear that you have wasted your efforts;
it was for yourself that you learned them.
In order, however, that I may not to-day have learned exclusively for myself, I shall share with you three excellent sayings, of the same general purport, which have come to my attention.
This letter will give you one of them as payment of my debt; the other two you may accept as a contribution in advance.
“One person means as much to me as a multitude, & a multitude only as much as one person.”
The following; they asked them what was the object of all this study applied to an art that would reach but very few. They replied:
“I am content with few, content with one, content with none at all.”
The third saying – & a noteworthy one, too – is by Epicurus:
“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”
Lay these words to heart, Lucilius, that you may scorn the pleasure which comes from the applause of the majority. Many people praise you; but have you any reason for being pleased with yourself, if you are a person whom the many can understand?
Stoic, Seneca, StoicTaoist。