39. What to Aspire to ?

Noble Aspirations

What to Aspire to ?

The study notes are necessary when learning a subject, howsoever useful a summary may be, it is only of use to one who knows it.

Pick up philosophy


desire to be one yourself

as the soul can be roused to

Honourable things.

Just as the flames springs straight into the air, & cannot be kept down, our soul is more ardent, the greater its motion & activities.

Happy is the person

who has given it to this

impulse towards better things!

It is the quality of a great soul to scorn great things & to prefer that which is ordinary rather than that which is too great.

On Noble Aspirations

I shall indeed arrange for you in careful order & narrow compass, the notes which you request.

However consider whether you may not get more help from the customary method than from that which is now commonly called a “breviary,” though in the good old days, when real Latin was spoken, it was called a “summary.”

The former is more necessary to one who is learning a subject, the latter to one who knows it.

For the one teaches, the other stirs the memory, however I shall give you abundant opportunity for both.

A person like you should not ask me for this authority or that; one who furnishes a voucher for their statements argues themselves unknown.

I shall therefore write exactly what you wish, but I shall do it in my own way; until then, you have many authors whose works will presumably keep your ideas sufficiently in order.

Pick up the list of the philosophers; that very act will compel you to wake up, when you see how many people have been working for your benefit; You will desire eagerly to be one of them yourself; For this is the most excellent quality that the noble soul has within itself, that it can be roused to honourable things.

No person of exalted gifts is pleased with that which is low & mean; the vision of great achievement summons them & uplifts all.

Just as the flame springs straight into the air & cannot be cabined or kept down any more than it can repose in quiet, so our soul is always in motion, & the more ardent it is, the greater its motion & activity.

Yet happy is the person

who has given it to this

impulse towards better things!

One will place themselves beyond the jurisdiction of chance; one will wisely control prosperity; one will lessen adversity, & will despise what others hold in admiration.

It is the quality of a great soul to scorn great things & to prefer that which is ordinary rather than that which is too great.

For the one condition is useful & life-giving; but the other does harm just because it is excessive.

Similarly, too rich a soil makes the grain fall flat, branches break down under too heavy a load, excessive productiveness does not bring fruit to ripeness.

This is the case with the soul also; for it is ruined by uncontrolled prosperity, which is used not only to the detriment of others, but also to the detriment of itself.

What enemy was ever so insolent to any opponent as are their pleasures to certain people?, The only excuse that we can allow for the incontinence & mad lust of these people is the fact that they suffer the evils which they have inflicted upon others.

They are rightly harassed by this madness, because desire must have unbounded space for its excursions, if it transgresses nature’s mean; For this has its bounds, but waywardness & the acts that spring from wilful lust are without boundaries.

Utility measures our needs; but by what standard can you check the superfluous?

It is for this reason that people sink themselves in pleasures, & they cannot do without them when once they have become accustomed to them, & for this reason they are most wretched, because they have reached such a pass that what was once superfluous to them has become indispensable.

So they are the slaves of their pleasures instead of enjoying them; they even love their own ills, & that is the worst ill of all!

Then it is that the height of unhappiness is reached, when people are not only attracted, but even pleased, by shameful things, & when there is no longer any room for a cure, now that those things which once were vices have become habits.

Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.