55. Where do you Live?


Where do you Live ? 

Do you live in a place you like, or do you like the place that you live?, similarly, do you live by what others think, or do you know how to live? 

The place where one lives, can contribute towards its tranquillity, however it is the mind that must make it agreeable to oneself.   

Know that you must live within yourself, to know yourself, & that you know not who you are, so take comfort that no one knows it all.    

They who live for no one does not necessarily live for themselves, nor does anyone know how to live for themselves, or does one even know how to live at all?, & how can we be so anxious if we know not what we are living for, so why the worry about nothing ? 

Nature has given us legs to do our own walking ,& eyes with which to do our own seeing, however we choose to let others feed & lead us from our path. 

Do you consider a person is at leisure, who has withdrawn from society, is free from care, self-sufficient, & live for themselves? 

Most people know how to hide, not how to live, & it makes a great deal of difference whether your life be one of leisure or one of idleness.    

On Vatia’s Villa 

I have just returned from a ride in my litter; and I am as weary as if I had walked the distance, instead of being seated; Even to be carried for any length of time is hard work, perhaps all the more so because it is an unnatural exercise; for Nature gave us legs with which to do our own walking, and eyes with which to do our own seeing.  

Our luxuries have condemned us to weakness; we have ceased to be able to do that which we have long declined to do; Nevertheless, I found it necessary to give my body a shaking up, in order that the bile which had gathered in my throat, if that was my trouble, might be shaken out. 

So I insisted on being carried longer than usual, along an attractive beach, which bends between Cumae and Servilius Vatia’s country-house, shut in by the sea on one side and the lake on the other, just like a narrow path.  

It was packed firm under foot, because of a recent storm; since, as you know, the waves when they beat upon the beach hard and fast, level it out; however a continuous period of fair weather loosens it, when the sand which is kept firm by the water, loses its moisture. 

As my habit is, I began to look about for something there that might be of service to me, when my eyes fell upon the villa which had once belonged to Vatia; So this was the place where that famous praetorian millionaire passed his old age!, He was famed for nothing else than his life of leisure, and he was regarded as lucky only for that reason.  

What he knew was how to hide, not how to live; and it makes a great deal of difference whether your life be one of leisure or one of idleness.  

So I never drove past his country-place during Vatia’s lifetime without saying to myself: “Here lies Vatia!, my dear Lucilius, philosophy is a thing of holiness, something to be worshipped, so much so that the very counterfeit pleases.  

For the mass of humankind consider that a person is at leisure who has withdrawn from society, is free from care, self-sufficient, and live for themselves; however these privileges can be the reward only of the wise person.  

Does one who is a victim of anxiety know how to live for themselves?, What?, Does one even know (and that is of first importance) how to live at all?  

For the person who has fled from affairs and from people, who has been banished to seclusion by the unhappiness which their own desires have brought upon themselves, who cannot see their neighbour more happy than themselves, who through fear has taken to concealment, like a frightened and sluggish animal, – this person is not living for themselves; they are living for their belly, their sleep, and their lust, – and that is the most shameful thing in the world.  

They who live for no one does not necessarily live for themselves.  

Nevertheless, there is so much in steadfastness and adherence to one’s purpose that even sluggishness, if stubbornly maintained, assumes an air of authority with us. 

I could not describe the villa accurately; for I am familiar only with the front of the house, and with the parts which are in public view and can be seen by the mere passer-by; There are two grottoes, which cost a great deal of labour, as big as the most spacious hall made by hand.  

One of these does not admit the rays of the sun, while the other keeps them until the sun sets; There is also a stream running through a grove of plane-trees, which draws for its supply both on the sea and on Lake Acheron; it intersects the grove just like a race-way, and is large enough to support fish, although its waters are continually being drawn off.  

When the sea is calm, however, they do not use the stream, only touching the well-stocked waters when the storms give the fishermen a forced holiday.  

The most convenient thing about the villa is the fact that Baiae is next door, it is free from all the inconveniences of that resort, and yet enjoys its pleasures.  

I myself understand these attractions, and I believe that it is a villa suited to every season of the year; It fronts the west wind, which it intercepts in such a way that Baiae is denied it, so it seems that Vatia was no fool when he selected this place as the best in which to spend his leisure when it was already unfruitful and decrepit. 

The place where one lives, however, can contribute little towards tranquillity; it is the mind which must make everything agreeable to itself.  

I have seen people despondent in a lovely villa, and I have seen them to all appearance full of business in the midst of a solitude. 

For this reason you should not refuse to believe that your life is well-placed merely because you are not now in Campania, however why are you not there?, Just let your thoughts travel, even to this place.  

You may hold converse with your friends when they are absent, and indeed as often as you wish and for as long as you wish; For we enjoy this, the greatest of pleasures, all the more when we are absent from one another.  

For the presence of friends makes us fastidious; and because we can at any time talk or sit together, when once we have parted we give not a thought to those whom we have just beheld.  

And we ought to bear the absence of friends cheerfully, just because everyone is bound to be often absent from their friends even when they are present.  

A friend should be retained in the spirit; such a friend can never be absent; We can see every day whomsoever we desire to see. 

I would therefore have you share your studies with me, your meals, and your walks; We should be living within too narrow limits if anything were barred to our thoughts.  

I see you, my dear Lucilius, and at this very moment I hear you; I am with you to such an extent that I hesitate whether I should not begin to write you notes instead of letters.  

Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist.  

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