8. What is Fortune & Chance?

What Chance has made yours, is not really yours.
Fortune; for we think that we hold them in our grasp, but they hold us in theirs. 

On the Philosopher’s Seclusion

“Do you bid me,” you say, “shun the throng, & withdraw from people, & be content with my own conscience? Where are the counsels of your school, which order a person to die in the midst of active work?”

As to the course which I seem to you to be urging on you now & then, my object in shutting myself up & locking the door is to be able to help a greater number.

I never spend a day in idleness; I appropriate even a part of the night for study.

I do not allow time for sleep but yield to it when I must, & when my eyes are wearied with waking & ready to fall shut, I keep them at their task. 

I have withdrawn not only from people, but from affairs, especially from my own affairs; I am working for later generations, writing down some ideas that may be of assistance to them.

There are certain wholesome counsels, which may be compared to prescriptions of useful drugs; these I am putting into writing; for I have found them helpful in ministering to my own sores, which, if not wholly cured, have at any rate ceased to spread.

I point other people to the right path, which I have found late in life, when wearied with wandering.
I cry out to them: “Avoid whatever pleases the throng: avoid the gifts of Chance!

Halt before every good which Chance brings to you, in a spirit of doubt & fear; for it is the animals & fish that are deceived by tempting hopes.

Do you call these things the ‘gifts’ of Fortune? They are snares.

Any one among you who wishes to live a life of safety will avoid, to the utmost of their power, these limed twigs of its favour, by which we mortals, most wretched in this respect also, are deceived;

Fortune: for we think that we hold them in our grasp, but they hold us in theirs. 

Such a career leads us into precipitous ways, & life on such heights ends in a fall.

Moreover, we cannot even stand up against prosperity when it begins to drive us to leeward; nor can we go down, either, ‘with the ship at least on its course,’ or once for all; Fortune does not capsize us, – it plunges our bows under & dashes us on the rocks.

“Hold fast, then, to this sound & wholesome rule of life; that you indulge the body only so far as is needful for good health. The body should be treated more rigorously, that it may not be disobedient to the mind.

Eat merely to relieve your hunger; drink merely to quench your thirst; dress merely to keep out the cold; house yourself merely as a protection against personal discomfort.

It matters little whether the house be built of turf, or of variously coloured imported marble; understand that a person is sheltered just as well by a thatch as by a roof of gold.

Despise everything that useless toil creates as an ornament & an object of beauty.

Reflect that nothing except the soul is worthy of wonder; for to the soul, if it be great, naught is great.”

When I commune in such terms with myself & with future generations, do you not think that I am doing more good than when I appear as counsel in court, or stamp my seal upon a will, or lend my assistance in the senate, by word or action, to a candidate?

Believe me, those who seem to be busied with nothing are busied with the greater tasks; they are dealing at the same time with things mortal & things immortal.

But I must stop, & pay my customary contribution, to balance this letter. The payment shall not be made from my own property; for I am still conning Epicurus.

I read to-day, the following sentence: “If you would enjoy real freedom, you must be the slave of Philosophy.” The person who submits & surrenders themselves to it is not kept waiting; One is emancipated on the spot.

For the very service of Philosophy is freedom.

I recall that you yourself expressed this idea much more happily & concisely:

What Chance has made yours, is not really yours.
The good that could be given, can be removed.


Seneca, StoicTaoist.















财富: 正当我们认为已抓住了它,但它却已牢牢抓住了我们。


















7. Why not to seek Crowds? 为何不寻找人群呢?

Do not copy the bad simply because they are many,

Nor hate the many because they are unlike you.

On Crowds

Do you ask me what you should regard as especially to be avoided? I say,


for as yet you cannot trust yourself to them with safety.

I shall admit my own weakness, at any rate; for I never bring back home the same character that I took abroad with me. Something of that which I have forced to be calm within me is disturbed; some of the foes that I have routed return again.

To consort with the crowd is harmful;

there is no person who does not make some vice attractive to us, or stamp it upon us, or taint us unconsciously therewith.

Certainly, the greater the mob with which we mingle, the greater the danger.

But nothing is so damaging to good character as the habit of lounging at the games; for then it is that vice steals subtly upon one through the avenue of pleasure. 

What do you think I mean? I mean that I come home more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous, & even more cruel & inhuman,

– because I have been among human beings.

Come now; do you not understand even this truth, that a bad example reacts on the agent?

The young character, which cannot hold fast to righteousness, must be rescued from the mob; it is too easy to side with the majority.

Even Socrates, Cato, & Laelius might have been shaken in their moral strength by a crowd that was unlike them; so true it is that none of us, no matter how much One cultivates their abilities, can withstand the shock of faults that approach, as it were, with so great a retinue. 

Much harm is done by a single case of indulgence or greed;

the familiar friend, if they be luxurious, weakens & softens us imperceptibly;

the neighbour, if they be rich, rouses our covetousness;

the companion, if they be slanderous, rubs off some of their rust upon us, even though we be spotless & sincere.

What then do you think the effect will be on character, when the world at large assaults it!

You must either imitate or loathe the world.

But both courses are to be avoided;

you should not copy the bad simply because they are many,

nor should you hate the many because they are unlike you.

Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better person of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve. The process is mutual; for people learn while they teach. 

There is no reason why pride in advertising your abilities should lure you into publicity, so that you should desire to recite or harangue before the general public.

One or two individuals will perhaps come in your way, but even these will have to be molded & trained by you so that they will understand you.

You may say: “For what purpose did I learn all these things?”

But you need not fear that you have wasted your efforts;

it was for yourself that you learned them.

In order, however, that I may not to-day have learned exclusively for myself, I shall share with you three excellent sayings, of the same general purport, which have come to my attention.

This letter will give you one of them as payment of my debt; the other two you may accept as a contribution in advance.

Democritus says:

“One person means as much to me as a multitude, & a multitude only as much as one person.” 

The following; they asked them what was the object of all this study applied to an art that would reach but very few. They replied:

“I am content with few, content with one, content with none at all.”

The third saying – & a noteworthy one, too – is by Epicurus:

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.” 

Lay these words to heart, Lucilius, that you may scorn the pleasure which comes from the applause of the majority. Many people praise you; but have you any reason for being pleased with yourself, if you are a person whom the many can understand?

Your good qualities should face inwards.


Stoic, Seneca, StoicTaoist。


不要简单地抄袭它,只 因为它是多数,