Changing Our Masks Everyday

Seneca, EM 120.21-22

“There’s not anyone who doesn’t change their plan and prayer every day. They want a spouse then a girlfriend, now to be kind and then next tries to act no better than a slave. Blow up so big to attract everyone’s contempt only to shrink and whittle back down to more humility than those who are barely there at all. Sometimes, you toss money around; other times, you steal it.

This is the foremost sign of a foolish mind: it tries to take this shape and that and is never equal to itself–a thing which I think is the most shameful quality. Trust me, it is a prize role, to play the part of a single person. But there’s no one who can be only one person except the wise one. The rest of us frequently change our shapes. Sometimes, you believe we are are frugal and serious, the rest of the time wasteful and silly. We keep changing our masks to take up the opposite character.

Instead, you should make yourself play that role up to the end of your life that you started at its beginning. Try to make people praise you, or, at the least, recognize who you are. As it is now, you can say about the person you saw yesterday, “who is this”, because that’s how much they’ve changed. Goodbye.”

Nemo non cotidie et consilium mutat et votum. Modo uxorem vult habere, modo amicam, modo regnare vult, modo id agit, ne quis sit officiosior servus, modo dilatat se usque ad invidiam, modo subsidit et contrahitur infra humilitatem vere iacentium, nunc pecuniam spargit, nunc rapit. 

Sic maxime coarguitur animus inprudens; alius prodit atque alius et, quo turpius nihil iudico, impar sibi est. Magnam rem puta unum hominem agere. Praeter sapientem autem nemo unum agit, ceteri multiformes sumus. Modo frugi tibi videbimur et graves, modo prodigi et vani. Mutamus subinde personam et contrariam ei sumimus, quam exuimus. Hoc ergo a te exige, ut, qualem institueris praestare te, talem usque ad exitum serves. Effice ut possis laudari, si minus, ut adgnosci. De aliquo, quem here vidisti, merito dici potest: “hic qui est?” Tanta mutatio est. Vale.

Mid third century
House of Masks, Sousse
Archeological Museum of Sousse

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