Someone Moved My Chair! Seneca Wants You to Focus

Seneca, Moral Epistle 2.1-3

“Based on what you are writing to me and from what I hear, I am developing a positive opinion about you. You don’t run around in every direction or disrupt yourself by moving all the time–that kind of distraction is the mark of a sickly spirit. I guess I think that the first indication of a well-put together mind is the ability to stand still and spend time with one’s self.

But beware! Don’t let that reading of a wide number of authors and every kind of text make you absent-minded and flighty. It is best to tarry among a set number of generational talents and soak up their work, if you want to get ideas that will take firm root in your mind.

What is everywhere is nowhere. When someone spends their life travelling all over the place, it turns out that they know many people but have no friends. It works the same way for people who try to get deeply familiar with no individual author but rush around them all in a hurry.

Food is useless if the body can’t absorb it and it exits the stomach as soon as as it is consumed; nothing undermines health as much as changing medicine constantly; no wound heals if different salves are applied one after another. A plant moved too frequently never grows strong.

There is nothing so useful that it is helpful in motion. Too many books are a distraction.”

Ex iis quae mihi scribis, et ex iis quae audio, bonam spem de te concipio; non discurris nec locorum mutationibus inquietaris. Aegri animi ista iactatio est. Primum argumentum conpositae mentis existimo posse consistere et secum morari.

Illud autem vide, ne ista lectio auctorum multorum et omnis generis voluminum habeat aliquid vagum et instabile. Certis ingeniis inmorari et innutriri oportet, si velis aliquid trahere, quod in animo fideliter sedeat.

Nusquam est, qui ubique est. Vitam in peregrinatione exigentibus hoc evenit, ut multa hospitia habeant, nullas amicitias. Idem accidat necesse est iis, qui nullius se ingenio familiariter applicant, sed omnia cursim et properantes transmittunt.

Non prodest cibus nec corpori accedit, qui statim sumptus emittitur; nihil aeque sanitatem impedit quam remediorum crebra mutatio; non venit vulnus ad cicatricem, in quo medicamenta temptantur; non convalescit planta, quae saepe transfertur. Nihil tam utile est, ut in transitu prosit. Distringit librorum multitudo.

istoric works in a Bookshelf in the Prunksaal (State Hall) of the Imperial Library of the Austrian National Library in Vienna.
istoric works in a Bookshelf in the Prunksaal (State Hall) of the Imperial Library of the Austrian National Library in Vienna.

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