Fighting Fortune: Two Enter, One Leaves

Seneca, Moral Epistles 51.7-9

“What if we did what Hannibal did and give our time to  pampering ourselves once we have stopped the course of events and given on the war? There’s no one who’d fail to upbraid us for our poorly scheduled laziness, something full of danger for a victor, and much more for someone merely about to conquer. And this is less appropriate for us than for those waving Punic sigils, since our danger is greater than theirs if we relax and our labor is more if we persevere.

Fortune is waging war against me. I will not be defeated; I will not accept the yoke. No, I’ll shake it off, something I have to do with greater dedication. The soul should not be coddled. If I give up to pleasure, then I must also yield to pain, to labor, to poverty. Ambition and rage would desire to have the same right over me too and I would be stretched to pieces, no, ripped to pieces, overcome by all these forces.

Freedom sits before me. My labor is for that prize. What is freedom, you ask? To be a slave to nothing, to no need, to no chance. It means meeting Fortune in the arena as an equal. On the day when I see that I am in control, she will be able to do nothing. Should I give in to death when death is in my hand?”

Si faceremus, quod fecit Hannibal, ut interrupto cursu rerum omissoque bello fovendis corporibus operam daremus, nemo non intempestivam desidiam victori quoque, nedum vincenti, periculosam merito reprehenderet; minus nobis quam illis Punica signa sequentibus licet, plus periculi restat cedentibus, plus operis etiam perseverantibus. Fortuna mecum bellum gerit; non sum imperata facturus. Iugum non recipio, immo, quod maiore virtute faciendum est, excutio.

Non est emolliendus animus; si voluptati cessero, cedendum est dolori, cedendum est labori, cedendum est paupertati; idem sibi in me iuris esse volet et ambitio et ira; inter tot adfectus distrahar, immo discerpar. Libertas proposita est; ad hoc praemium laboratur. Quae sit libertas, quaeris? Nulli rei servire, nulli necessitati, nullis casibus, fortunam in aequum deducere. Quo die illa me intellexero plus posse, nil poterit. Ego illam feram, cum in manu mors sit?

still shot from Mad Max beyond the thunderdome. Tina Turner in shadows looking down at the arena

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