How to Live ?
Live according to Nature.
On the Philosopher’s Mean
I commend you & rejoice in the fact that you are persistent in your studies, & that, putting all else aside,
you make it each day your endeavour to become a better person.
I do not merely exhort you to keep at it; I actually beg you to do so.
I warn you, however, not to act after the fashion of those who desire to be conspicuous rather than to improve,
by doing things which will rouse comment as regards your dress or general way of living.
Repellent attire, unkempt hair, open scorn of silver dishes, a couch on the bare earth,
& any other perverted forms of self-display, are to be avoided.
The mere name of philosophy, however quietly pursued, is an object of sufficient scorn;
& what would happen if we should begin to separate ourselves from the customs of our fellowships?
Inwardly, we ought to be different in all respects, but our exterior should conform to society.
Do not wear too fine, nor yet too frowzy, a toga.
One needs no silver plate, encrusted & embossed in solid gold;
but we should not believe the lack of silver & gold to be proof of the simple life.
Let us try to maintain a higher standard of life than that of the multitude, but not a contrary standard;
otherwise, we shall frighten away & repel the very persons whom we are trying to improve.
The first thing which philosophy undertakes to give is fellow-feeling with everyone;
in other words, sympathy & sociability.
We part company with our promise if we are unlike everyone else.
We must see to it that the means by which we wish to draw admiration be not absurd & odious.
Our motto, as you know, is
but it is quite contrary to nature to torture the body, to hate unlaboured elegance, to be dirty on purpose,
to eat food that is not only plain, but disgusting & forbidding.
Just as it is a sign of luxury to seek out dainties,
so it is madness to avoid that which is customary & can be purchased at no great price.
Philosophy calls for plain living, but not for penance;
& we may perfectly well be plain & neat at the same time.
This is the mean of which I approve;
our life should observe a happy medium between the ways of a sage & the ways of the world at large;
all & one should admire it, but they should understand it also.
“Well then, shall we act like other people?
Shall there be no distinction between ourselves & the world?”
Yes, a very great one;
let people find that we are unlike the common herd, if they look closely.
If they visit us at home, they should admire us, rather than our household appointments.
One is a great person who uses earthenware dishes as if they were silver;
but One is equally great who uses silver as if it were earthenware.
It is the sign of an unstable mind not to be able to endure riches.
I wish to share with you to-day’s profit also, in the writings of Hecato that the limiting of desires helps also to cure fears:
“Cease to hope, & you will cease to fear.”
“But how,” you will reply, “can things so different go side by side?”
In this way, my dear Lucilius: though they do seem at variance, yet they are really united.
Just as the same chain fastens the prisoner & the soldier who guards them,
so hope & fear, dissimilar as they are, keep step together;
fear follows hope.
I am not surprised that they proceed in this way;
each alike belongs to a mind that is in suspense,
a mind that is fretted by looking forward to the future.
But the chief cause of both these ills is that we do not adapt ourselves to the present,
but send our thoughts a long way ahead.
And so foresight,
the noblest blessing of the human race, becomes perverted.
Many of our blessings bring bane to us;
for memory recalls the tortures of fear,
while foresight anticipates them.
The present alone can make no One wretched.
Beasts avoid the dangers which they see, & when they have escaped them are free from care;
but we torment ourselves
as well as
Stoic, Seneca, StoicTaoist。