53. What is my fault?


What is my fault ? 

Why will no-one confess to their faults?, It is because we are still in slumber, & only one who awakes can recount their dreams & nightmares.  

Shake off your slumber & devote yourself to philosophy, as you are worthy of it, & it is worthy of you.  

I do not intent to accept that the time left is slight, I intend to devote time to cherish what is left.

Time is not what others might offer
my time is what I may give.  

On the Faults of the Spirit 

You can persuade me into almost anything now, for I was recently persuaded to travel by water; We cast off when the sea was lazily smooth; the sky to be sure, was heavy with nasty clouds, such as usually break into rain or squalls.  

Still, I thought that the few miles between Puteoli and your dear Parthenope might be run off in quick time, despite the uncertain and lowering sky; So, in order to get away more quickly, I made straight out to sea for Nesis, with the purpose of cutting across all the inlets.  

When we were so far out that it made little difference to me whether I returned or kept on, the calm weather which had enticed me, came to naught; The storm had not yet begun, however the ground-swell was on, and the waves kept steadily coming faster.  

I began to ask the pilot to put me ashore somewhere; he replied that the coast was rough and a bad place to land, and that in a storm he feared a lee shore more than anything else.  

However I was suffering too grievously to think of the danger, since a sluggish seasickness which brought no relief was racking me, therefore I laid down the law to my pilot, forcing him to make for the shore. 

When I finally calmed my stomach and refreshed my body with a rubdown, I began to reflect how completely we forget or ignore our failings, even those that affect the body, which are continually reminding us of their existence. 

A slight ague deceives us; however when it has increased and a genuine fever has begun to burn, it forces even a hardy person, who can endure much suffering, to admit that they are ill.  

There is pain in the foot, and a tingling sensation in the joints; however we still hide the complaint and announce that we have sprained a joint, or else are tired from over-exercise.  

Then the ailment, uncertain at first, must be given a name; and when it begins to swell the ankles also, and has made both our feet “right” feet, we are bound to confess that we have the gout.  

The opposite holds true of diseases of the soul; the worse one is, the less one perceives it.  

You need not be surprised, my beloved Lucilius; For one whose sleep is light pursues visions during slumber, and sometimes though asleep, is conscious that one is asleep; however sound slumber annihilates our very dreams and sinks the spirit down so deep that it has no perception of self.  

Why will no person confess their faults?, Because they are still in its grasp; only one who is awake can recount their dream, and similarly a confession of sin is a proof of sound mind

Let us therefore rouse ourselves, that we may be able to correct our mistakes.  

Philosophy however, is the only power that can stir us, the only power that can shake off our deep slumber.  

Devote yourself wholly to philosophy
You are worthy of it; it is worthy of you;

greet one another with a loving embrace.  

Say farewell to all other interests with courage and frankness;  Do not study philosophy merely during your spare time. 

If you were ill, you would stop caring for your personal concerns, and forget your business duties; you would not think highly enough of any client to take active charge of their case during a slight abatement of your sufferings.  

You would try your hardest to be rid of the illness as soon as possible.  

What, then?, Shall you not do the same thing now?, Throw aside all hindrances and give up your time to getting a sound mind; for no-one can attain it if one is engrossed in other matters.  

Philosophy wields its own authority; it appoints its own time and does not allow it to be appointed for.  

It is not a thing to be followed at odd times, but a subject for daily practice; it is mistress & master , and it commands our attendance.  

Alexander, when a certain state promised him a part of its territory and half its entire property, replied: “I invaded Asia with the intention, not of accepting what you might give, but of allowing you to keep what I might leave.”  

Philosophy likewise keeps saying to all occupations: “I do not intend to accept the time which you have left over, however I shall allow you to keep what I myself shall leave.” 

Turn to it, with all your soul, sit at its feet, cherish it; a great distance will then begin to separate you from other mortals.  

You will be far ahead of all mortals, and even the divine will not be far ahead of you.  

Do you ask what will be the
difference between yourself and the Divine?
They will live longer.  

By my faith, it is the sign of a great artist to have confined a full likeness to the limits of a miniature; The wise person’s life spreads out to them over as large a surface as does all eternity to a deity.  

There is one point in which the sage has an advantage over the deity; for the divine is freed from terrors by the bounty of nature, the wise person by their own bounty.  

What a wonderful privilege, to have the weaknesses of a mortal and the serenity of the Divine !  

The power of philosophy to blunt the blows of chance is beyond belief; No missile can settle in their body; it is well-protected and impenetrable.  

Farewell, Seneca, StoicTaoist. 

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.