Retreat too Far into Darkness and You’ll Never See the Light

Seneca, Moral Epistles 3.4-6

“There’s a certain kind of person who tells everyone they meet details that should only be entrusted to friends and they unburden themselves on any available ear of whatever is annoying them. Other people withhold their true feeling from those closest to them–and, if they could, they would suppress every secret deep inside, distrustful even of themselves.

But neither way is right. It is as much a fault to trust everyone as it is to trust no one. The former mistake, however, I might call somewhat innocent, while the latter is safer. Really, you should criticize people who take both approaches, those who are always restless and those who are ever still. For delight in being busy is not rigor but instead is the treadmill of an unsettled mind. And yet it is not true rest to consider all movement annoying–that’s laziness and inattention.

So, take to mind instead this saying I read from Pomponius: “Some people retreat into shadows so far that they believe dark whatever is in the light.”

Quidam quae tantum amicis committenda sunt, obviis narrant et in quaslibet aures, quicquid illos urserit, exonerant. Quidam rursus etiam carissimorum conscientiam reformidant, et si possent, ne sibi quidem credituri interius premunt omne secretum. Neutrum faciendum est. Utrumque enim vitium est, et omnibus credere et nulli. Sed alterum honestius dixerim vitium, alterum tutius: sic utrosque reprehendas, et eos qui semper inquieti sunt, et eos qui semper quiescunt. Nam illa tumultu gaudens non est industria, sed exagitatae mentis concursatio. Et haec non est quies, quae motum omnem molestiam iudicat, sed dissolutio et languor. Itaque hoc, quod apud Pomponium legi, animo mandabitur: “quidam adeo in latebras refugerunt, ut putent in turbido esse, quicquid in luce est.” 

black and white photograph of light streaming from a paned window onto the walls of a dim factory. the room is otherwise empty
Frits De Long, “Light and Shadow” 2013

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