Seneca: Religion

“Religion is regarded by the ignorant as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”

—Seneca.

Seneca: Natural desires

“Natural desires are limited; but those which spring from false opinion can have no stopping-point. The false has no limits. When you are travelling on a road, there must be an end; but when astray, your wanderings are limitless. Recall your steps, therefore, from idle things, and when you would know whether that which you seek is based upon a natural or upon a misleading desire, consider whether it can stop at any definite point. If you find, after having travelled far, that there is a more distant goal always in view, you may be sure that this condition is contrary to nature.” –Seneca. 

Seneca: Proper limit

“What difference does it make how much there is laid away in a man’s safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another’s and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he has already. You ask what is the proper limit to a person’s wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.”

—Seneca. 

Seneca: Digest it

“We should see to it that whatever we have absorbed should not be allowed to remain unchanged, or it will be no part of us. We must digest it: otherwise it will merely enter the memory and not the reasoning power [in memoriam non in ingenium]. Let us loyally welcome such foods and make them our own, so that something that is one may be formed out of many elements, just as one number is formed of several elements.”

—Seneca. 

Seneca: We steel ourselves

“No one learns to lie down contentedly in a bed of roses, if the need arises, but rather we steel ourselves for this: to not betray a confidence under torture, or to stand guard, though wounded, through the night if the need arises, without even leaning on an upright spear, since sleep has a way of sneaking up on those who lean against some support.”

—Seneca. 

Seneca: Higher view 

“We must take a higher view of all things, and bear with them more easily: it better becomes a man to scoff at life than to lament over it. Add to this that he who laughs at the human race deserves better of it than he who mourns for it, for the former leaves it some good hopes of improvement, while the latter stupidly weeps over what he has given up all hopes of mending…. Yet it is better to accept public morals and human vices calmly without bursting into either laughter or tears; for to be hurt by the sufferings of others is to be forever miserable, while to enjoy the suffering of others is an inhuman pleasure.” —Seneca. 

Seneca: He who fears death

“He who fears death will never act as becomes a living man: but he who knows that this fate was laid upon him as soon as he was conceived will live according to it, and by this strength of mind will gain this further advantage, that nothing can befall him unexpectedly: for by looking forward to everything which can happen as though it would happen to him, he takes the sting out of all evils, which can make no difference to those who expect it and are prepared to meet it: evil only comes hard upon those who have lived without giving it a thought and whose attention has been exclusively directed to happiness.”

—Seneca. 

Seneca: Disorderly company

“He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a man who is alive, but he who knows that these were the terms drawn up for him at the moment of his conception will live according to the bond, and at the same time will also with like strength of mind guarantee that none of the things that happen shall be unexpected. For by looking forward to whatever can happen as though it would happen, he will soften the attacks of all ills, which bring nothing strange to those who have been prepared beforehand and are expecting them; it is the unconcerned and those that expect nothing but good fortune upon whom they fall heavily. Sickness comes, captivity, disaster, conflagration, but none of them is unexpected — I always knew in what disorderly company Nature had confined me.”

—Seneca. 

Seneca: Seize what flees

Let us therefore set out whole-heartedly, leaving aside our many distractions and exert ourselves in this single purpose, before we realize too late the swift and unstoppable flight of time and are left behind. As each day arises, welcome it as the very best day of all, and make it your own possession. We must seize what flees.”

—Seneca. 

Seneca: Live straightaway

“The greatest hindrance to living is expectancy, which depends upon the morrow and wastes today. You dispose of that which lies in the hands of Fortune, you let go that which lies in your own. Whither do you look? At what goal do you aim? All things that are still to come lie in uncertainty; live straightway!” -Seneca (On the Shortness of Life).