Keep Screwing Up, It’s Never Enough!

Seneca, Moral Epistles 89.18-21

“Restrain these passions–energize what is lazy in you; constrain what has gotten loose, put down what is annoying;  target your own desires and everyone else’s as much as you can. And when people say, “How long must we endure these things?” respond, “I should be asking you, “How long will you keep screwing these things up?”

Do you want the treatment to stop before the symptoms do? In fact, I am going to talk on more because you’re objecting. Medicine starts to work at the point when merely a touch from someone else causes pain. I will offer helpful words even to the unwilling. Sometimes a voice that’s not mere compliment will reach you. Hear this publicly since you’re unwilling in truth to listen alone.

Just how far will you expand your property lines? A plot of land that used to hold a whole people is now too small for a single lord. How far will you extend your plowed lands–when you aren’t happy to keep the boundary of your farms within the provinces’ borders? Famous rivers have their course through your private garden and  impressive streams–once the borders of powerful nations–belong to you from their source to the sea.

Yet this is also too small for you unless you bind up the seas with your corporate farms, unless your butler rules across the Adriatic, the Ionian, and the Aegean sea, unless those island homes of great leaders are counted among your most minor possessions. Take them as far as you want to, so that your farm is what once was named a kingdom. Make your own whatever you can, just as long as it is more than anyone else has!”

Illos conpesce, marcentia in te excita, soluta constringe, contumacia doma, cupiditates tuas publicasque quantum potes vexa; et istis dicentibus “quo usque eadem?” responde: “ego debebam dicere ‘quo usque eadem peccabitis?’” Remedia ante vultis quam vitia desinere? Ego vero eo magis dicam et, quia recusatis, perseverabo. Tunc incipit medicina proficere, ubi in corpore alienato dolorem tactus expressit. Dicam etiam invitis profutura. Aliquando aliqua ad vos non blanda vox veniat, et quia verum singuli audire non vultis, publice audite.

Quo usque fines possessionum propagabitis? Ager uni domino, qui populum cepit, angustus est. Quo usque arationes vestras porrigetis, ne provinciarum quidem spatio contenti circumscribere praediorum modum? Inlustrium fluminum per privatum decursus est et amnes magni magnarumque gentium termini usque ad ostium a fonte vestri sunt. Hoc quoque parum est, nisi latifundiis vestris maria cinxistis, nisi trans Hadriam et Ionium Aegaeumque vester vilicus regnat, nisi insulae, ducum domicilia magnorum, inter vilissima rerum numerantur. Quam vultis late possidete, sit fundus quod aliquando imperium vocabatur; facite vestrum quicquid potestis, dum plus sit alieno.

image of cartoon triceratops from Land before Time with Latin quotations "facite vestrum quicquid potestis, dum plus sit alieno." which means "make whatever you can yours, provided it is more than someone else has"

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