• Alex Vikner

Moral Epistles

Author: Seneca


Summary: Moral Epistles is a collection of the 124 letters that Seneca wrote to Lucilius discussing several topics ranging from the search for wisdom to what is virtuous to the brevity of life and how to accept death.

Nothing is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man's ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.


To be everywhere is to be nowhere.


Always read well-tried authors, and if at any moment you find yourself wanting a chnage from a particular author, go back to ones you have read before.


It is not the man who has little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.


After a friendship is formed you must trust, but before that you must judge.


Trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one.


Inwardly everything should be different, but our outward face should conform with the crowd.


One's life should be a compromise between the ideal and the popular morality.


There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with.


Personal discourse with someone is of more benefit than any discourse.


A person who is his own friend will never be alone.


Nothing is as ruinous to the character as sitting away one's time at a show.


Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach.


The boon that could be given can be withdrawn.


If you wish to be loved, love.


The ending inevitably matches the beginning: a person who starts being friends with you because it pays him will similarly cease to be friends with you because it pays him to do so.


Not happy he who thinks himself not so.


We need to set of affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing.


Fruit tastes most delicious hust wehn its season is ending.


To live under constraint is a misfortune, but there is no constraint to live under constraint.


Philosophy moulds the personality, orders one's life, regulates one's conduct, shows one what one should do and what one should leave undone, keeps one on the correct path as one is tossed about in perilous seas.


Natural desires are limited; those which spring from false opinions have nowhere to stop, for falsity has no point of termination.


Rehearse poverty. Rehearse death.


A good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness.


A consciousness of wrongdoing is the fist step to salvation.


It is disgraceful that a grown man should have a wisdom deriving solely from his notebook. Let's have some difference between you and the books.


I shall use the old road, but if I find a shorter and easier one I shall open it up. The men who pioneered the old routes are leaders, not our masters.


Language which devotes its attention to truth ought to be plain and unadorned.


Treat your inferiors in the way in which you would like to be treated by your own superiors.


Each man has a character of his own choosing; it is chance or fate that decides his choice of job.


Only an absolute fool values a man according to his clothes or his social position.


Acknowledging one's failings is a sign of health.


The man whom you should admire and imitate is the one who finds it a joy to live and in spite of that is not reluctant to die.


Soft living imposes on us the penalty of debility.


The place one's in doesn't make any contribution to peace of mind: it's the spirit that makes everything agreeable to oneself.


Voices are more inclined to distract than general noise; noise merely fills one's ears, battering away at them while voices actually catches one's attention.


What's the good of having silence throughout the neighbourhood if one's emotions are in turmoil?


The fact that the body is lying down is no reason for supposing that the mind is at peace.


The harmful consequences of inactivity are dissipated by activity.


Whatever can happen at any time can happen today.


What is death? Either a transition or an end. I am not afraid of coming to an end, this being the same as never having begun, nor of transition, for I shall never be in confinement quite so cramped anywhere else as I am here.


At whatever point you leave life, if you leave it in the right way, it is a whole.


Dying is one of life's duties. You're leaving no duty undone, for there is no fixed number of duties laid down which you'e supposed to complete. Every life without exception is a short one.

There are times when even to live is an act of bravery.


Refuse to let the thought of death bother you: nothing is grim when we have escaped that fear.

In illness the suffering is always bearable so long as you refuse to be affected by the ultimate threat.


Everything hangs on one's thinking.


A man is as unhappy as he has convinced himself he is.


Be your own spectator, your own applauding audience.


Don't give in to adversity, never trust propserity, and always take full note of fortune's habit of behaving just as she pleases.


We should live as if we were in public view and think as if someone cold peer into the inmost recesses of or heart.


Drunkenness inflames and lays bare every vice, removing the reserve that acts as a check on impulses to wrong behavior.


So-called pleasures, when they go beyond a certain limit, are but punishments.


I have no respect for any study whose end is the making of money.


I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know what is capable of happening — and none of this will give rise to any protest in my part. I'm ready for everything.


Look for the best and prepare for the worst.


Wisdom does not lie in books.


To want to know more than is sufficient is a form of intemperence.


Cooks are as unnecessary to the human race as soldiers.


Essential things are acquired with little bother; it is luxuries that call to toil and effort.

Nature demanded nothing hard from us, and nothing needs painful contriving to enable life to be kept going. We were born into a world in which things were ready to our hands; it is we who have made everything difficult to come by through our disdain for what is easily come by.


Philosophy does not train men's hands, she is the instructress of men's minds.


The fact that it was unforseen has never failed to intensify a person's grief. This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventualityinstead of only the usual course of events.

In the absence of any enemy, we suffer all that an enemy might wreak upon us.


Overmuch prosperity if all else fails will hit on the instruments of its own destruction.


Misfirtune has a way of choosing some unprecedented means or other of impressing its power on those who might be said to have forgotten it.


Nothing is durable, whether for an individual or for a society; the destinies of men and cities alike sweep onwards.


Be aware that whatever happens is never as serious as rumour makes it out to be.

All the works of mortal man lie under stence of mortality; we live among things that are destined to perish.


In the ashes all men are levelled. We're born unequal, we die equal.


Utterences of the unenlightened are as noises emanating from the belly. They make no difference.

No one has power over us when death is within our own power.


If you really want to escape the things that harass you , what you're needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.


To lose someone you love is something you'll regard as the hardest of all blows to bear, while all the time this will be as silly as crying because the leaves fall from the beautiful trees that add to the charm of your home.


Travel won't make a better or saner man out of you. For this we must spend time in study and in the writings of wise men, to learn the truths that have emerged from their researches, and carry on the search ourselves for the answers that have not yet been discovered. This is the way to liberate the spirit that still needs to be rescued from its miserable state of slavery.


Wisely pick you ypu spend your time with, who you look up to and whose work you study.


The only safe harvour in this life's tossing, troubled sea is to refuse to be bothered about what the future will bring and to stand ready and confident to take without skulking or flinching whatever fortune hurls at us.


First reject the life of pleasures; they make us soft and require us to make insistent demands on fortune. Then look down on wealth, which is the wage of slavery. Gold and silver and everything else that clutters our prosperous homes should be discarded. Freedom cannot be won without sacrifice. If you set a highvalue on her, everything else must be valued at little.


A guilty person sometimes has the luck to escape detection, but never to feel sure of it.


Things will get thrown at you and things will hit you. Life is no soft affair.


There are conditions of our existence which we cannot change. What we can do is to adopt a noble spirit, such a spirif as befits a good man, so that we may bear up bravely under all that fortune sends us and bring our wills in tune with nature's.


The poor lack much, the greedy everything.


The greedy man does no one any good, but harms no person more than his own self.


He needs but little who desires but little.


He has his wish, whose wish can be to have what is enough.


When the character is impressionable it is easily won over to a passion for what is noble and honourable, while a person's character is still malleable, and only corrupted to a mild degree, tructh strikes deep if she finds the right kind of advocate.


What we hear philosophers saying and what we find in their writings should be applied in our pursuit of a happy life. We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching, and the spirited and nobleminded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application—not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech—and learn themso well that words become works.


How men can prove that their words are their own: let them put their preaching into practice.


People's speech matches their lives.


See that the spirit is well looked after. Our thoughts and our words proceed from it. We derive our demeanour and expression and the very way we walk from it. If the spirit is sound and healthy our style will be firm and dorceful and virile, but if the spirit tumbles all the rest of our personality comes down in ruins with it.


Active and commendable is the person who is waiting for the daylight and intercepts the first rays of the sun; shame on him who lies in bed dozing when the sun is high in the sky, whose waking hours commence in the middle of the day.


Nothing is burdensome if taken lightly. Nothing need arouse one's irritation so long as one doesn't make it bigger than it is by getting irritated.


Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We've been using them not because we needed them but because we had them. look at the number of things we buy because others have bought them or becase they're in most people's houses. One of the causes of the troubles that beset us is the way our lives are guides by the example of others; instead of being set to rights by reason we're seduced by convention.

Let us fight the battle the other way round: retreat from the things that attract us and rouse ourselves to meet the things that actually attack us.

© Alex Vikner

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