The Desire to Become Good

Seneca, Moral Epistle 34 [whole]

“I feel full and I feel joy and I feel warm as if I had slipped out of old age each time I sense from your deeds and your letters how much you have surpassed yourself, since you long ago left the masses behind you. If a tree coming to fruit pleases a farmer, or if a shepherd finds joy in the growth of his flock, if everyone looks at at their own student as if they had been testing them since childhood, what do you think happens to those who have educated a mind and shaped it young when they see it full grown?

I claim you as mine–you are my work. When I noticed your ability, I put my hand on you, encouraged you, I spurred you on and never let you move slowly, but constantly pushed you. I do this now too, but I am rooting for someone already running who cheers for me in turn.

“What’s left?” You ask, “I am still willing.” This means the most, not just the beginning, as they say, “half done is the task begun”–no, this depends on the spirit. The greater task of goodness is the desire to become good. Do you know what I call a good man? Someone complete, certain, one no limitation or desire can debase. I see that person in you, if you persevere, lean in to your labor, and make sure that all your words and deeds relate and support one another and form a unitary person. No one whose actions are disharmonious will have a balanced soul. Bye-bye.

Cresco et exulto et discussa senectute recalesco, quotiens ex iis, quae agis ac scribis, intellego, quantum te ipse, nam turbam olim reliqueras, superieceris. Si agricolam arbor ad fructum perducta delectat, si pastor ex fetu gregis sui capit voluptatem, si alumnum suum nemo aliter intuetur quam ut adulescentiam illius suam iudicet; quid evenire credis iis, qui ingenia educaverunt et quae tenera formaverunt adulta subito vident?

Adsero te mihi; meum opus es. Ego quom vidissem indolem tuam, inieci manum, exhortatus sum, addidi stimulos nec lente ire passus sum, sed subinde incitavi; et nunc idem facio, sed iam currentem hortor et invicem hortantem.

“Quid aliud?” inquis; “adhuc volo.” In hoc plurimum est, non sic quomodo principia totius operis dimidium occupare dicuntur; ista res animo constat. Itaque pars magna bonitatis est velle fieri bonum. Scis quem bonum dicam? Perfectum, absolutum, quem malum facere nulla vis, nulla necessitas possit. Hunc te prospicio, si perseveraveris et incubueris et id egeris, ut omnia facta dictaque tua inter se congruant ac respondeant sibi et una forma percussa sint. Non est huius animus in recto, cuius acta discordant. Vale.

gif of Arnold Swarzeneggar from Kindergarten Cop saying "you are mine now, you belong to me"

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