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Practicing Poverty

Stoicism

Seneca, Of a Happy Life – Part 1 (Stoicism)

Of a happy life by Seneca book, one all men, brother Gallio, wished to live happily but are dull at perceiving exactly what it is that makes life happy and so far. Is it from being easy to attain to happiness that the more eagerly a man struggles to reach it the further he departs from it if he takes the wrong road for since this leads in the opposite direction, his very swiftness carries him all the further away. We must therefore first define clearly what it is at which we aim. Next, we must consider by what path we may most speedily reach it for on our journey itself, provided it be made in the right direction. We shall learn how much progress we have made each day and how much nearer we are to the gold words which our natural desires urge us. But as long as we wander at random, not following any guide except the shouts and discordant climber’s of those who invite us to proceed in different directions, our short life will be wasted in useless roamings. Even if we labor both day and night to get a good understanding, let us not therefore decide whether we must end and by what path. Without the advice of some experienced person who has explored the region which we are about to enter because this journey is not subject to the same conditions as others for them, some distinctly understood, track and enquiries made of the natives make it impossible for us to go Wrong, but here the most beaten and frequent tracks are those which lead us most astray. Nothing therefore is more important that we should not like sheep, follow the flock that has gone before us and thus proceed, not whether we ought but whither the rest are going. Nothing gets us into greater troubles than our subservience to common rumour and our habit of thinking that those things are best which are most generally received as such of taking many counterfeits for truly good things and of living, not by reason, but by imitation of others. This is the cause of those great heaps into which men rush till they are piled one upon another in a great crush of people. When the crowd presses upon itself, no one can fall without drawing someone else down upon him and those who go before caused the destruction of those who follow them. You may observe the same thing in human life. No one can merely go wrong by himself that he must become both the cause and adviser of another’s wrongdoing. It is harmful to follow the march of those who go before us and since everyone had rather believe another than form his own opinion, we never passed the at judgment upon life, but some traditional error always entangles us and brings us to ruin and we perish because We follow other men’s examples. We should be cured of this if we were to disengage ourselves from the herd, but as it is, the mob is ready to fight against reason and defense of its own mistake. Consequently, the same thing happens as at elections where, when the fickle breeze of popular favor has veered around those who have been chosen consoles and prey, ters are viewed with admiration by the very men who made them so that we should all approve and disapprove of the Same things is the end of every decision which is given according to the voice of the majority book, when we are considering a happy life. You cannot answer me as though, after a division of the house, this view has the most supporters, because for that very reason it is the worst of the two matters. Do not stand so well with mankind that the majority should prefer the better course. The more people do a thing, the worse it is likely to be. Let us therefore inquire not what is most commonly done, but what is best for us to do and what will establish us in the possession of undying happiness, not what has approved of by the vulgar the worst possible exponents of truth. By the vulgar I mean both those who wear woolen cloaks and those who are crowns, for I do not regard the color of the clothes with which they are covered. I do not trust my eyes to tell me what a man is. I have a better and more trustworthy light by which I can distinguish what is true from what is false. Let the mind find out what is good for the mind. If a man ever allows his mind some breathing space and has leisure for communing with himself, what truths will he confessed to himself after having been put to the torture by his own self? He will say whatever I have hitherto done. I wish were undone when I think over what I have said. I envy dumb people, whatever I have longed for, seems to be that which my enemies would pray might befall me good heaven, how far more endurable what I have feared seems to be than what I have lusted after I have been at enmity with many men and Have changed my dislike of them into friendship if friendship can exist between bad men, yet I have not become reconciled to myself. I have striven, with all my strength, to raise myself above the common herd and to make myself remarkable for some talent. What have I effected saved to make myself a mark for the arrows of enemies and show those who hate me where to wound me? Do you see those who praised your eloquence, who covet your wealth, who court your favor or who vote your power? All these are, or which comes to the same thing, may be your enemies. The number of those who envy you is as great as that of those who admire you. Why do I not rather seek for some good thing, which I can use and feel not one which I can show these good things which men gaze at and wonder which they crowd to see which one points out to another with speechless admiration are outwardly brilliant. But within or miseries to those who possess them book 3, let us seek for some blessing, which does not merely look fine but is sound and good throughout alike, and most beautiful in the parts which are least seen. Let us on earth this. It is not far distant from us, it can be discovered. All that is necessary is to know whether to stretch out your hand, but as it is, we behave as though we were in the dark and reach out beyond what is nearest to us, striking, as we do so against the very things that we want. However, that I may not draw you into digressions, I will pass over the opinions of other philosophers, because it would take a long time to state and compute them all take hours. When, however, I say hours, I do not bind myself to any one of the chiefs of the stoic school, for I, too have a right to form my own opinion. I shall therefore follow the authority of some of them, but shall ask some others to discriminate their meaning. Perhaps when, after having reported all of their opinions, I am asked for my own. I shall impute none of my predecessors decisions and shall say I will also add some what to them. Meanwhile, I follow nature, which is a point upon which every one of the stoic philosophers are agreed. True wisdom consists in not departing from nature and in molding our conduct according to her laws and model. A happy life, therefore, is one which is in accordance with its own nature and cannot be brought about unless, in the first place, the mind be sound and remained so without interruption. And next be bold and vigorous enduring all things with most admirable courage suited to the times in which it lives careful of the body and its appurtenances. Yet not troublesome, ly careful. It must also set new value upon all the things which adorn our lives without overestimating. Any of them and must be able to enjoy the bounty of fortune without becoming her slave. You understand, without my mentioning it that an unbroken calm and freedom ensue when we have driven away all those things which either excite us or alarm us for in the place of sensual pleasures and those slight perishable matters which are connected with the basest crimes. We less gain an immense unchangeable. Equable joy, together with peace, calmness and greatness of mind and kind leanness for all. Savageness is a sign of weakness. Look for our highest good may also be defined. Otherwise, that is to say, the same idea may be expressed in different language, just as the same army may at one time be extended more widely at another contracted into a smaller compass and may either be curved toward the wings by a depression. In the line of the centre or drawn up in a straight line, while in whatever figure it be arrayed, its strength and loyalty remain unchanged. So also our definition of the highest good may, in some cases, be expressed, diffusely and a great length, while in others it is put into a short and concise form. Thus it will come to the same thing. If I say the highest good is a mind which despises the accidents of fortune and takes pleasure in virtue, or it is a none conquerable strength of mind knowing the world. Well, gentle, in its dealings, showing great courtesy and consideration for those with whom it is brought into contact, or we may choose to define it by calling that man happy. Who knows good and bad only in the form of good and bad minds who worships honor and is satisfied with his own virtue? Who is neither puffed up by good fortune nor cast down by evil fortune? Who knows no other good than that which he is able to distill pend himself, whose real pleasure lies in despising pleasures? If you choose to pursue this digression further, you can put the same idea into many other forms without impacting or weakening its meaning for what prevents our saying that a happy man consists in a mind which is free, upright, undaunted and steadfast beyond the influence of fear Or desire which thinks nothing good, except honor, and nothing bad, except blame cards, everything else as a mass of mean details which can either add anything nor take anything away from the happiness of life but which come and go without either increasing or diminishing the highest good. A man of these principles, whether he will or no must be accompanied by a continual cheerfulness, a high happiness which comes indeed from on high because he delights and what he has and desires no greater pleasures than those which his home affords. Is he not right and allowing these to turn the scale against petty, ridiculous and short-lived movements of his wretched body on the day on which he becomes proof against pleasure? He also becomes proof against pain, see, on the other hand, how evil and guilty a slavery. The man is forced to serve, who is dominated and turned by pleasures and pains those most untrustworthy and passionate of masters. We must therefore escape from them into freedom. This nothing will bestow upon us safe contempt of Fortune, but if we attain to this, then there will dawn upon us those invaluable blessings, the repose of a mind that is at rest in a safe haven, its lofty imaginings, it’s great and steady delight at casting out Errors and learning to know the truth. It’S courtesy, its cheerfulness in all of which we shall take delight not regarding them as good things, but as proceedings from the proper good of men book five, since I have begun to make my definitions without a too strict adherence to the letter, a man may be Called happy who, thanks to Reason, has seized either to hope or to fear, but rocks also feel neither fear nor sadness nor to cattle. Yet no one would call those things happy which cannot comprehend what happiness is with them. You may clasp men whose dull nature and want of self-knowledge reduces them to the level of cattle mere animals. There is no difference between the one and the other, because bladder have no reason, while the former have only a corrupted form of it. Crooked and cunning to their own hurt for no one can be styled happy who is beyond the influence of truth and consequently, a happy life is unchangeable and is founded upon a true and trustworthy discernment, for the mind, is uncontaminated and freed from all evils. Only when it is able to escape not merely from wounds, but also from scratches when it will always be able to maintain the position which it has taken up and defended against the angry assaults of Fortune 4. With regard to sensual pleasures, though, they were to surround one on every side and use every means of assault trying to win over the mind by caresses and making trial of every conceivable stratagem to attract either our entire selves or our separate parts. Yet what mortal that retains any traces of human origin would wish to be tickled today and night and neglecting his mind to devote himself to bodily enjoyments. You

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