On the True Joy which Comes from Philosophy
Do you ask what is the foundation of a sound mind? It is not to find joy in useless things.
The person who is goaded ahead by hope of anything, though it be within reach, though it be easy of access, & though their ambitions have never played them false, is troubled & unsure of themselves.
Above all, my dear Lucilius, make this your business:
I do not wish you ever to be deprived of gladness; I would have it born in your house; & it is born there, if only it be inside of you.
Other objects of cheer do not fill a person’s bosom; they merely smooth their brow & are inconstant, – unless perhaps you believe that One who laughs has joy; The very soul must be happy & confident, lifted above every circumstance.
Real joy, believe me is a stern matter; Can one, do you think despise death with a care-free countenance ? Or can one thus open their door to poverty, or hold the curb on their pleasures, or contemplate the endurance of pain?
One who ponders these things in their heart is indeed full of joy; but it is not a cheerful joy; It is just this joy, however of which I would have you become the owner; for it will never fail you when once you have found its source.
The yield of poor mines is on the surface; those are really rich whose veins lurk deep, & they will make more bountiful returns to them who delves unceasingly.
Therefore I pray you, my dearest Lucilius, do the one thing that can render you really happy: cast aside & trample under foot all those things that glitter outwardly & are held out to you by another or as obtainable from another; look toward the true good, & rejoice only in that which comes from your own store.
What do I mean by “from your own store”?, I mean from your very self, that which is the best part of you.
The frail body, also even though we can accomplish nothing without it, is to be regarded as necessary rather than as important; it involves us in vain pleasures, short-lived, & soon to be regretted, which unless they are reined in by extreme self-control, will be transformed into the opposite.
This is what I mean: pleasure, unless it has been kept within bounds, tends to rush headlong into the abyss of sorrow, hence it is hard to keep within bounds in that which you believe to be good; The real good may be coveted with safety.
Do you ask me what this real good is, & whence it derives?, I will tell you: it comes from a good conscience, from honourable purposes, from right actions, from contempt of the gifts of chance, from an even & calm way of living which treads but one path.
For people who leap from one purpose to another, or do not even leap but are carried over by a sort of hazard, – how can such wavering & unstable persons possess any good that is fixed & lasting?
There are only a few who control themselves & their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river.
And of these objects, some are held back by sluggish waters & are transported gently; others are torn along by a more violent current; some, which are nearest the bank, are left there as the current slackens; & others are carried out to sea by the onrush of the stream.
Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.