Big Fish, Small Pond

Seneca, Moral Epistles 43.1-3

“You ask how this information finds me, who informed me that you were contemplating something you had revealed to no one? It was the one who knows the most, rumor. “What,” you ask, “am I so great that I incite rumor?” Well, you shouldn’t be measuring yourself according to this place: look to where you are.

Anything that overshadows its neighbors is a big deal, where it is large by comparison. For size does not have an absolute standard. Comparison increases one thing but diminishes another. A ship in the midst of a great wave is small. But its rudder, massive on another ship, is tiny on a different one.

So in your region, you are a big deal, even if you look down on yourself. What you do, how you eat, how you sleep, is investigated, it is known. For this reason you need to like carefully.

Judge yourself lucky at that time when you can live out in the open, when the walls protect you but don’t hide you–even though we can believe for the most part that we surround ourselves with walls not to be safe, but to sin more in secret.”

Quomodo hoc ad me pervenerit quaeris, quis mihi id te cogitare narraverit, quod tu nulli narraveras? Is qui scit plurumum, rumor. “Quid ergo?” inquis, “Tantus sum, ut possim excitare rumorem?” Non est quod te ad hunc locum respiciens metiaris; ad istum respice, in quo moraris. Quicquid inter vicina eminet, magnum est illic, ubi eminet. Nam magnitudo non habet modum certum; comparatio illam aut tollit aut deprimit. Navis, quae in flumine magna est, in mari parvula est. Gubernaculum, quod alteri navi magnum, alteri exiguum est.

Tu nunc in provincia, licet contemnas ipse te, magnus es. Quid agas, quemadmodum cenes, quemadmodum dormias, quaeritur, scitur; eo tibi diligentius vivendum est. Tunc autem felicem esse te iudica, cum poteris in publico vivere, cum te parietes tui tegent, non abscondent, quos plerumque circumdatos nobis iudicamus non ut tutius vivamus, sed ut peccemus occultius.

Photograph of two Labeo Bata cultivars taken at Shakuntala Park market in Kolkata. There is six known cultivars of Labeo Bata in West Bengal.Top: Chari Bata, characterized by a marked black line along the midline of the fish, is bigger in length and size that the common bata (bottom). Chari Bata is naturally found in the rivers and rarely cultivated in the ponds.

Bottom: Bhangan Bata, the commonly available Bata cultivar that is cultivated and consumed. It is smaller in size.
Taken from Wikimedia Commons

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