What you think of yourself?
On the Critical Condition of Marcellinus
You have been inquiring about our friend Marcellinus & you desire to know how he is getting along; He seldom comes to see me, for no other reason than that he is afraid to hear the truth, & at present he is removed from any danger of hearing it; for one must not talk to a person unless they are willing to listen.
For what if one should chide the deaf or those who are speechless from birth or by illness?, But you answer: Why should I spare words?, They cost nothing; I cannot know whether I shall help the person to whom I give advice; but I know well that I shall help someone if I advise many; I must scatter this advice by the handful; It is impossible that one who tries often should not sometime succeed.
This very thing, my dear Lucilius is I believe exactly what a great-souled person ought not to do; their influence is weakened; it has too little effect upon those whom it might have set right, if it had not grown so stale.
Now wisdom is an art; it should have a definite aim, choosing only those who will make progress, while withdrawing from those, whom it has come to regard as hopeless, – yet not abandoning them too soon.
As to our friend Marcellinus, I have not yet lost hope; He can still be saved, but the helping hand must be offered soon; There is indeed danger that he may pull his helper down; for there is in him a native character of great vigour, though it is already inclining to wickedness.
He will act in his usual way; he will have recourse to his wit; He will forestall every word which I am about to utter; He will quiz our philosophic systems; he will accuse philosophers of accepting doles, keeping mistresses, & indulging their appetites; He will point out to me one philosopher who has been caught in adultery, another who haunts the cafes & another who appears at court.
It is my plan to approach him & to show him how much greater was his worth when many thought it less; Even though I shall not root out his faults, I shall put a check upon them; they will not cease, but they will stop for a time; & perhaps they will even cease if they get the habit of stopping.
So while I prepare myself to deal with Marcellinus, do you in the meantime,
, whence and whither you have made your way, & who for that reason have an inkling of the distance yet to go,
, rouse your courage, & stand firm in the face of things which have terrified you.
Do not count the number of those who inspire fear in yyou; Would you not regard as foolish, one who was afraid of a multitude, in a place where only one at a time could pass?
Just so, there are not many who have access to you to slay you, though there are many who threaten you, with death; Nature has so ordered it that, as only one has given you life, so only one will take it away.
For who that is pleased by virtue can please the crowd?, It takes trickery to win popular approval,; & you must needs make yourself like unto them; they will withhold their approval, if they do not recognize you, as one of themselves.
The favour of ignoble people, can be won only by ignoble means; Hence,
Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.