So what should we be seeking?, Seek about the art which enables us to understand things human, & things divine, what we have to seek, is the spirit that endures & rouses the soul, that molds itself to one’s divinity: rise & mould thyself to kinship with thy Divinity.
On Siren Songs
One is beginning to reveal the character of which you gave promise; Follow up the impulse which prompted you to make for all that is best.
I would not have you greater or better than you planned; only finish all that you have laid out, & take in hand the plans which you have had in mind.
In short, you will be a wise person, if you stop up your ears; nor is it enough to close them with wax; just as Ulysses, the song which he feared was alluring, but came not from every side; the song however, which you have to fear, echoes round you not from a single headland, but from every quarter of the world.
Sail, not past one region which you mistrust because of its treacherous delights, but past every city; Be deaf to those who love you most of all; they pray for bad things with good intentions.
This cannot be attained, unless one has learnt to despise toil & to reckon it among the things which are neither good nor bad; For it is not possible that a single thing should be bad at one time & good at another, at times light & to be endured, & at times a cause of dread.
Work is not a good?, Then what is a good?, I say, the scorning of work, That is why I should rebuke people who toil to no purpose.
Work is the sustenance of noble minds, What need is there of vows?, Make yourself happy through your own efforts; you can do this, if once you comprehend that whatever is blended with virtue is good, & that whatever is joined to vice is bad.
Just as nothing gleams if it has no light blended with it, & nothing is black unless it contains darkness or draws to itself something of dimness, & as nothing is hot without the aid of fire, & nothing cold without air; so it is the association of virtue & vice that makes things honourable or base.
Your wise person, who is also a artisan, will reject or choose in each case as it suits the occasion; yet one does not fear that which one rejects, nor does one admire that which one chooses, if only you have a stout & unconquerable soul.
I forbid you to be cast down or depressed; It is not enough if you do not shrink from work; ask for it, “However,” you say, “is not trifling & superfluous work, & work that has been inspired by ignoble causes, a bad sort of work?”
No; no more than that which is expended upon noble endeavours, since the very quality that endures toil & rouses itself to hard & uphill effort, is of the spirit.
In order that virtue may be perfect, there should be an even temperament & a scheme of life that is consistent with itself throughout; & this result cannot be attained without knowledge of things, & without the art which enables us to understand things human & things divine.
That is the greatest good; If you seize this good, you begin to be the associate of the divine, & not their suppliant.
Your money, however, will not place you on a level with Divinity; for the divine has no property; nor will your reputation, nor a display of self, nor a knowledge of your name wide-spread throughout the world; for no one has knowledge of the divine; many even hold divinity in low esteem, & do not suffer for so doing.
Neither can beauty or strength make you blessed, for none of these qualities can withstand old age, What we have to seek for, then, is that which does not each day pass more & more under the control of some power which cannot be withstood.
What is this?, It is the soul, – the soul that is upright, & great, A soul like this may descend into a Roman knight just as well as into a servant.
For what is a Roman knight, or a servant?, They are mere titles, born of ambition or of wrong; One may leap to heaven from the very slums.
Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.