52. Who are our Teachers ?

Who are our teachers? 

Choose as a guide that you will admire more, when you see them act, than when you hear them speak, be guided by actions & not the tales that they teach.  

Why do you take pleasure in being praised by people whom you yourself cannot praise?, Do not seek the approval of those that you preach, seek only the joy of sharing.  

We are ever the Fools, dragging ourselves from place to place, plans to plans; it’s only our own Folly, not to fully fulfill our spirit & enjoy our self.  

On Choosing our Teachers 

What is this force Lucilius, that drags us in one direction when we are aiming in another, urging us on to the exact place from which we long to withdraw?, What is it that wrestles with our spirit, and does not allow us to desire anything once for all? 

We veer from plan to plan; None of our wishes is free, none is unqualified, none is lasting. 

“It is the fool,” you say, “who is inconsistent; nothing suits them for long.”, yet how or when can we tear ourselves away from this folly?, No one by themselves has sufficient strength to rise above it; we need a helping hand, and someone to extricate us. 

Epicurus remarks that certain people have worked their way to the truth without any one’s assistance, carving out their own passage, And he gives special praise to these, for their impulse has come from within, and they have forged to the front by themselves. 

Again, he says, there are others who need outside help, who will not proceed unless someone leads the way, yet who will follow faithfully. 

You will find still another class of people, and a class not to be despised, who can be forced and driven into righteousness, who do not need a guide as much as they require someone to encourage and, as it were to force them along. 

Suppose that two buildings have been erected, unlike as to their foundations, but equal in height and in grandeur; One is built on faultless ground, and the process of erection goes right ahead, In the other case, the foundations have exhausted the building materials, for they have been sunk into soft and shifting ground and much labour has been wasted in reaching the solid rock. 

As one looks at both of them, one sees clearly what progress the former has made, however the larger and more difficult part of the latter is hidden. 

So with people’s dispositions; some are pliable and easy to manage, yet others have to be laboriously wrought out by hand, so to speak, and are wholly employed in the making of their own foundations. 

I should accordingly deem more fortunate the person who has never had any trouble with themselves; however the other, I feel has deserved better of themselves, who has won a victory over the meanness of their own nature, and has not gently led themselves, yet have wrestled their way to wisdom. 

You may be sure that this refractory nature, which demands much toil, has been implanted in us; There are obstacles in our path; so let us fight, and call to our assistance some helpers. 

“Whom,” you say, “shall I call upon?, Shall it be this person or that?”, There is another choice also open; youu may go to the ancients; for they have the time to help you. 

We can get assistance not only from the living, also from those of the past. 

Let us choose however from among the living, not people who pour forth their words with the greatest glibness, turning out commonplaces and holding, as it were their own little private exhibitions, not these I say, but people who teach us by their lives, people who tell us what we ought to do and then prove it by practice, who show us what we should avoid, and then are never caught doing that which they have ordered us to avoid. 

Choose as a guide one whom you will admire more when you see them act, than when you hear them speak. 

Of course I would not prevent you from listening also to those philosophers who are wont to hold public meetings and discussions, provided they appear before the people for the express purpose of improving themselves and others, and do not practise their profession for the sake of self-seeking. 

For what is baser than philosophy courting applause?, Does the sick person praise the surgeon while they are operating?, In silence and with reverent awe submit to the cure; Even though you cry applause, I shall listen to your cries as if you were groaning when your sores were touched. 

Do you wish to bear witness that you are attentive, that you are stirred by the grandeur of the subject?, You may do this at the proper time; I shall of course allow you to pass judgment and cast a vote as to the better course. 

How mad is one who leaves the lecture-room in a happy frame of mind simply because of applause from the ignorant! 

Why do you take pleasure in being praised by people whom you yourself cannot praise? 

Fabianus used to give popular talks, however his audience listened with self-control, Occasionally a loud shout of praise would burst forth, however it was prompted by the greatness of the subject, and not by the sound of oratory that slipped forth pleasantly and softly. 

There should be a difference between the applause of the theatre and the applause of the school; and there is a certain decency even in bestowing praise, If you mark them carefully, all acts are always significant, and you can gauge character by even the most trifling signs. 

The lecherous person is revealed by their gait, by a movement of the hand, sometimes by a single answer, by the shifting of their eye, These qualities become known by certain marks; however you can tell the character of every person when you see how they give and receive praise.  

If you really understand, that is not praise; it is merely applause; These outcries should be left for the arts which aim to please the crowd; let philosophy be worshipped in silence.  

Young people indeed, must sometimes have free play to follow their impulses, however it should only be at times when they act from impulse, and when they cannot force themselves to be silent.  

Such praise as that gives a certain kind of encouragement to the hearers themselves, and acts as a spur to the youthful mind; however let them be roused to the matter, and not to the style; otherwise, eloquence does them harm, making them enamoured of itself, and not of the subject. 

I shall postpone this topic for the present; it demands a long and special investigation, to show how the public should be addressed, what indulgences should be allowed to a speaker on a public occasion, and what should be allowed to the crowd itself in the presence of the speaker.  

There can be no doubt that philosophy has suffered a loss, now that it has exposed its charms for sale, however it can still be viewed in its sanctuary, if its exhibitor is a priest and not a pedlar.  

Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.