Milk and A Blanket, A Recipe for Happiness

Seneca, Moral Epistles 20.12-13

“It is, moreover, the sign of a great mind not to rush to these kinds of things as if they are better but to be prepared for them as if they are easy. And they are easy, Lucilius, when you approach them after deep contemplation, they are pleasurable too.–there’s some safety in them and nothing is pleasant without this.

So, I think what is needed–what I wrote to you that great men often do–is to spend some days during which we practice imaginary poverty to get ready for the real thing. We need to do this even more because we have persisted on luxury and we think everything else is harsh and challenging. Instead, the spirit needs to be shaken from sleep and pinched, reminded that nature has set out little for us. No one is born wealthy. Everyone enters into the light and is told to be happy with milk and a blanket. Kingdoms don’t satisfy us after these starts! Goodbye.”

Ceterum magnae indolis est ad ista non properare tamquam meliora, sed praeparari tamquam ad facilia. Et sunt, Lucili, facilia; cum vero multo ante meditatus accesseris, iucunda quoque; inest enim illis, sine qua nihil est iucundum, securitas. Necessarium ergo iudico, id quod tibi scripsi magnos viros saepe fecisse: aliquos dies interponere, quibus nos imaginaria paupertate exerceamus ad veram. Quod eo magis faciendum est, quod deliciis permaduimus et omnia dura ac difficilia iudicamus. Potius excitandus e somno et vellicandus est animus admonendusque naturam nobis minimum constituisse. Nemo nascitur dives. Quisquis exit in lucem, iussus est lacte et panno esse contentus; ab his initiis nos regna non capiunt. Vale.

Black and white image of a woodcut showing a child sitting on floor next to a table with  a feeding cup while a woman mixes something in a bowl and looks at the child
Child with feeding bottle. Woodcut appears in “Ein Regiment … für die jungen Kinder” by Heinrich von Louffenberg.

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