51. Lovers of Pleasures

on Morals

Are you a lover of pleasures or pain?

Toughen your mind against the allure of pleasures; for The soul is not to be pampered, as surrendering to pleasure, means also surrendering to pain, as The spirit is weakened by surroundings that are too pleasant.

Therefore we ought to select, abodes which are wholesome not only for the body, & also for the character, hence remember to Place yourself, within that which enrich your wellness.

What is Wellness, you ask?

It means not being a slave
to any Circumstance
to any Constraint
to any Chance

On Baiae and Morals

Everyone does the best they can, my dear Lucilius!, As for myself, I do the best I can; I have had to be satisfied with Baiae; and I left it the day after I reached it; for Baiae is a place to be avoided, because, though it has certain natural advantages, luxury has claimed it for their own exclusive resort.

“What then,” you say, “should any place be singled out as an object of aversion?”, Not at all, however just as, to the wise and upright person, one style of clothing is more suitable than another, without them having an aversion for any particular colour, yet because one thinks that some colours do not befit one who has adopted the simple life; so there are places also, which the wise person or one who is on the way toward wisdom will avoid as foreign to good morals. 

Therefore, if one is contemplating withdrawal from the world, one will not select Canopus, nor Baiae either; for both places have begun to be resorts of vice, At Canopus luxury pampers itself to the utmost degree; at Baiae it is even more lax, as if the place itself demanded a certain amount of licence.

We ought to select abodes which are wholesome not only for the body & also for the character; Just as I do not care to live in a place of torture, neither do I care to live in a café.

To witness people wandering drunk along the beach, the riotous revelling of sailing parties, and all the other ways in which luxury, when it is, so to speak, released from the restraints of law not merely sins, yet blazons its sins abroad, – why must I witness all this? 

We ought to see to it that we flee to the greatest possible distance from provocations to vice; We should toughen our minds, and remove them far from the allurements of pleasure.

We too have a war to wage, a type of warfare in which there is allowed no rest or furlough; To be conquered, in the first place, are pleasures, which, as you see, have carried off even the sternest characters.

If a person has once understood how great is the task which they have entered upon, they will see that there must be no dainty or effeminate conduct.

Suppose we do what Hannibal did, – check the course of events, give up the war, and give over our bodies to be coddled; Everyone would rightly blame us for our untimely sloth, a thing fraught with peril even for the victor, to say nothing of one who is only on the way to victory.

Fortune is fighting against me, and I shall not carry out its commands; I refuse to submit to the yoke; nay rather, I shake off the yoke that is upon me, – an act which demands even greater courage.

The soul is not to be pampered; surrendering to pleasure means also surrendering to pain, surrendering to toil, surrendering to poverty.

Both ambition and anger will wish to have the same rights over me as pleasure, and I shall be torn asunder, or rather pulled to pieces, amid all these conflicting passions. 

I have set freedom before my eyes; and I am striving for that reward; And what is freedom, you ask?, It means not being a slave to any circumstance, to any constraint, to any chance; it means compelling Fortune to enter the lists on equal terms.

And on the day when I know that I have the upper hand, its power will be naught; When I have death in my own control, shall I take orders from it?

Therefore, a person occupied with such reflections should choose an austere and pure dwelling-place; The spirit is weakened by surroundings that are too pleasant, and without a doubt one’s place of residence can contribute towards impairing its vigour.

Animals whose hoofs are hardened on rough ground can travel any road; however when they are fattened on soft marshy meadows their hoofs are soon worn out.

The bravest soldier comes from rock-ribbed regions; however the town-bred and the home-bred are sluggish in action; The hand which turns from the plough to the sword never objects to toil; however your sleek and well-dressed dandy quails at the first cloud of dust; As being trained in a rugged country strengthens the character and fits it for great undertakings.

I have been haranguing against Baiae long enough; although I never could harangue often enough against vice; Vice, Lucilius, is what I wish you to proceed against, without limit and without end; For it has neither limit nor end.

If any vice rend your heart, cast it away from you; and if you cannot be rid of it in any other way, pluck out your heart also.

Above all, drive pleasures from your sight; Hate them beyond all other things, for they are like the bandits whom the Egyptians call “lovers,” who embrace us only to garrotte us.

Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.