“When Will This Year Be Over”? Seneca on Speeding Life Along

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 7

“The man who has hoped for the fasces longs to put them down once he gets them and says constantly, “When will this year be over?” This man sponsors games which he once valued as a great opportunity for him, yet he says “When can I get away from them?” A lawyer is raised up by the whole forum and with full crowd beyond where he can be heard, but he complains “When will we have a break?” Everyone speeds their own life along and suffers for a desire for the future and boredom with the present.

But the person who portions out every moment to his own use, who schedules out every day like it is the last, neither hopes for nor fears tomorrows. For what kind of new pleasure is any hour alone capable of bringing? Everything is known and has been enjoyed fully. Fortune may by chance bring out something else, but life is already safe. Something can be added; nothing can be subtracted, and he will accept anything which is added like someone who is already satisfied and full will take some food he does not desire.

Therefore, it is not right to think that anyone has lived long because of grey hair or wrinkles. He has not lived a while, but he has existed a while. Certainly, what if you thought that he had traveled far whom a terrible storm grabbed in the harbor and dragged here and there in turns of winds raging from different directions and drove him over the same space in a circle? He did not travel far, but he was tossed around a lot.”

Adsecutus ille quos optaverat fasces cupit ponere et subinde dicit: “Quando hic annus praeteribit?” Facit ille ludos, quorum sortem sibi optingere magno aestimavit: “Quando,” inquit, “istos effugiam?” Diripitur ille toto foro patronus et magno concursu omnia ultra, quam audiri potest, complet: “Quando,” inquit, “res proferentur?” Praecipitat quisque vitam suam et futuri desiderio laborat, praesentium taedio. At ille qui nullum non tempus in usus suos confert, qui omnem diem tamquam ultimum ordinat, nec optat crastinum nec timet. Quid enim est, quod iam ulla hora novae voluptatis possit adferre? Omnia nota, omnia ad satietatem percepta sunt. De cetero fors fortuna, ut volet, ordinet; vita iam in tuto est. Huic adici potest, detrahi nihil, et adici sic, quemadmodum saturo iam ac pleno aliquid cibi, quod nec desiderat et capit. Non est itaque quod quemquam propter canos aut rugas putes diu vixisse; non ille diu vixit, sed diu fuit. Quid enim si illum multum putes navigasse, quem saeva tempestas a portu exceptum huc et illuc tulit ac vicibus ventorum ex diverso furentium per eadem spatia in orbem egit? Non ille multum navigavit, sed multum iactatus est.

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Johannes von Gmunden: Calendar, [Nuremberg], 1496

Some Brief Words on How to Live

Cornelius Nepos, Atticus 25.11

“It is difficult to explain everything and not really necessary. But I do want to make this one thing clear, that his generosity was not offered at advantageous moments or with specific calculation. This can be evaluated from the events and times themselves, because he never ministered to those in power but always rushed to help those in need.”

Difficile est omnia persequi et non necessarium. Illud unum intellegi volumus, illius liberalitatem neque temporariam neque callidam fuisse. Id ex ipsis rebus ac temporibus iudicari potest, quod non florentibus se venditavit, sed afflictis semper succurrit

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.47

“So one thing is worth much: to keep on living with truth and justice and in good will even among liars and unjust men”

Ἓν ὧδε πολλοῦ ἄξιον, τὸ μετ᾿ ἀληθείας καὶ δικαιοσύνης εὐμενῆ τοῖς ψεύσταις καὶ ἀδίκοις διαβιοῦν.

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Hellmouth from ‘The Hours of Catherine of Cleves (c. 1440)

Better citation from twitter:

A Healthy Mind in A Healthy Body, but Greek

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.12

“For all of the uses of the body it makes a big difference to keep it in as good a condition as possible. Even for thinking, in which the use of the body seems least important, who does not know that many things fail in its practice because the body is not healthy? Forgetfulness, depression, ill temper and madness often strike the mind so badly because of bodily afflictions that it drives out understanding.

There is great stability for those who have strong bodies and there is, at least, no danger from suffering something like this because of physical affliction. No, it is likely that the useful help will develop as the opposite to those things that happen from affliction. And, indeed, what wouldn’t someone who has some sense try to forestall the opposite to those things I have mentioned?”

πάσαις δὲ ταῖς τοῦ σώματος χρείαις πολὺ διαφέρει ὡς βέλτιστα τὸ σῶμα ἔχειν· 6ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐν ᾧ δοκεῖς ἐλαχίστην σώματος χρείαν εἶναι, ἐν τῷ διανοεῖσθαι, τίς οὐκ οἶδεν, ὅτι καὶ ἐν τούτῳ πολλοὶ μεγάλα σφάλλονται διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑγιαίνειν τὸ σῶμα; καὶ λήθη δὲ καὶ ἀθυμία καὶ δυσκολία καὶ μανία πολλάκις πολλοῖς διὰ τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν ἐμπίπτουσιν οὕτως, ὥστε καὶ τὰς ἐπιστήμας ἐκβάλλειν. 7τοῖς δὲ τὰ σώματα εὖ ἔχουσι πολλὴ ἀσφάλεια καὶ οὐδεὶς κίνδυνος διά γε τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν τοιοῦτόν τι παθεῖν, εἰκὸς δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ ἐναντία τῶν διὰ τὴν καχεξίαν γιγνομένων τὴν εὐεξίαν χρήσιμον εἶναι. καίτοι τῶν γε τοῖς εἰρημένοις ἐναντίων ἕνεκα τί οὐκ ἄν τις νοῦν ἔχων ὑπομείνειεν;

 

Xenophon elaborates on some of this earlier

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.5

“Certainly it is necessary—since the city does not provide public expenses for war—not to overlook it privately, nor otherwise to care for yourself less. Know well that you be no worse off in any other struggle or action because you have put your body in better shape. For the body is useful in everything people do. In all functions of the body it makes a big difference that the body is as healthy as possible. Even in something you might think the body is of little use—thinking—who doesn’t know that great errors come from having a sick body?

Forgetfulness, loss of spirit, ill-temper and madness often impinge upon perception because of the weakness of the body so badly that all knowledge is expelled. But for those who are healthy in body it is a great protection and they suffer no suffer no such risk of suffering this kind of thing because of the weakness of their body. It is probably that for those who have a healthy condition they will have the opposite experience. And, certainly, won’t anyone with some sense endure anything for the opposite of these things that have been mentioned?”

Anyway, is it not shameful to grow old because of carelessness before seeing how beautiful and strong a person you might be thanks to your body? It is not possible to witness this for someone who doesn’t make an effort. For it is not willing to develop on its own.”

Οὔτοι χρὴ ὅτι ἡ πόλις οὐκ ἀσκεῖ δημοσίᾳ τὰ πρὸς τὸν πόλεμον, διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἰδίᾳ ἀμελεῖν, ἀλλὰ μηδὲν ἧττον ἐπιμελεῖσθαι. εὖ γὰρ ἴσθι, ὅτι οὐδὲ ἐν ἄλλῳ οὐδενὶ ἀγῶνι οὐδὲ ἐν πράξει οὐδεμιᾷ μεῖον ἕξεις διὰ τὸ βέλτιον τὸ σῶμα παρεσκευάσθαι· πρὸς πάντα γάρ, ὅσα πράττουσιν ἄνθρωποι, χρήσιμον τὸ σῶμά ἐστιν· ἐν πάσαις δὲ ταῖς τοῦ σώματος χρείαις πολὺ διαφέρει ὡς βέλτιστα τὸ σῶμα ἔχειν· ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐν ᾧ δοκεῖς ἐλαχίστην σώματος χρείαν εἶναι, ἐν τῷ διανοεῖσθαι, τίς οὐκ οἶδεν, ὅτι καὶ ἐν τούτῳ πολλοὶ μεγάλα σφάλλονται διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑγιαίνειν τὸ σῶμα; καὶ λήθη δὲ καὶ ἀθυμία καὶ δυσκολία καὶ μανία πολλάκις πολλοῖς διὰ τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν ἐμπίπτουσιν οὕτως, ὥστε καὶ τὰς ἐπιστήμας ἐκβάλλειν. τοῖς δὲ τὰ σώματα εὖ ἔχουσι πολλὴ ἀσφάλεια καὶ οὐδεὶς κίνδυνος διά γε τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν τοιοῦτόν τι παθεῖν, εἰκὸς δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ ἐναντία τῶν διὰ τὴν καχεξίαν γιγνομένων τὴν εὐεξίαν χρήσιμον εἶναι. καίτοι τῶν γε τοῖς εἰρημένοις ἐναντίων ἕνεκα τί οὐκ ἄν τις νοῦν ἔχων ὑπομείνειεν;

Αἰσχρὸν δὲ καὶ τὸ διὰ τὴν ἀμέλειαν γηρᾶναι, πρὶν ἰδεῖν ἑαυτὸν ποῖος ἂν κάλλιστος καὶ κράτιστος τῷ σώματι γένοιτο. ταῦτα δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν ἰδεῖν ἀμελοῦντα· οὐ γὰρ ἐθέλει αὐτόματα γίγνεσθαι.

Diogenes Laertius, 1.37.2

“When someone asked who is lucky, [Thales said] “whoever has a healthy body, a sophisticated mind, and teachable nature.”

τίς εὐδαίμων, “ὁ τὸ μὲν σῶμα ὑγιής, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν εὔπορος, τὴν δὲ φύσιν εὐπαίδευτος.”

Juvenal, Satire 10.356

“We must beg for a healthy mind in a healthy body”

orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano

Zuordnung der Tierkreiszeichen zu den Körperteilen; Homo signorum, Heinrich von Laufenberg, Regimen, ca. 1450/60

Being Happy Takes Practice!

Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes 71

“He used to say, however, that there was no success in life at all without practice and that this can conquer everything. For this reason, people must choose the types of practice nature demands to live well instead of useless toils—and to live unhappily is a type of madness.

For even despising pleasure is extremely pleasurable, when it has been practiced; and just as those who are used to pleasure feel discomfort when they try to opposite, so too do those who have practiced the opposite get more pleasure from hating pleasure than from pleasure itself.

These were the things Diogenes talked about and clearly did—for he debased the currency and gave no rule authority unless it was natural. He used to say that he lived the same kind of life Herakles did and valued nothing more than freedom.”

Οὐδέν γε μὴν ἔλεγε τὸ παράπαν ἐν τῷ βίῳ χωρὶς ἀσκήσεως κατορθοῦσθαι, δυνατὴν δὲ ταύτην πᾶν ἐκνικῆσαι. δέον οὖν ἀντὶ τῶν ἀχρήστων πόνων τοὺς κατὰ φύσιν ἑλομένους ζῆν εὐδαιμόνως, παρὰ τὴν ἄνοιαν κακοδαιμονοῦσι. καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ τῆς ἡδονῆς ἡ καταφρόνησις ἡδυτάτη προμελετηθεῖσα, καὶ ὥσπερ οἱ συνεθισθέντες ἡδέως ζῆν, ἀηδῶς ἐπὶ τοὐναντίον μετίασιν, οὕτως οἱ τοὐναντίον ἀσκηθέντες ἥδιον αὐτῶν τῶν ἡδονῶν καταφρονοῦσι. τοιαῦτα διελέγετο καὶ ποιῶν ἐφαίνετο, ὄντως νόμισμα παραχαράττων, μηδὲν οὕτω τοῖς κατὰ νόμον ὡς τοῖς κατὰ φύσιν διδούς· τὸν αὐτὸν χαρακτῆρα τοῦ βίου λέγων διεξάγειν ὅνπερ καὶ Ἡρακλῆς, μηδὲν ἐλευθερίας προκρίνων.

This reminded me of the saying attributed to Democritus:

Democritus, fr. 200

‘Those who live without enjoying life are fools.’

ἀνοήμονες βιοῦσιν οὐ τερπόμενοι βιοτῆι. #Democritus

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Happiness and Fortune

The Skills of the Lover of Wisdom

Philo, On Dreams 205

“I certainly feel wonder at the lover of wisdom since, when he practices his art, he brings together and integrates many different things from different sources. For he takes from the children’s grammar the first two subjects—writing and reading—and then from the more mature education knowledge of poets and the learning of ancient history, from arithmetic and geometry precision in topics needing proportion and calculation, from music rhythm and meter, harmonic melodies, as well as chromatic, diatonic, concordant and discordant; from rhetoric, topic, diction, composition, efficiency, memory, and performance; and from philosophy however much has been left out from these other subjects and the rest of things which make a person’s life whole. The lover of wisdom fits all these into the most decorous work, combining great knowledge with the ability to learn even more.”

θαυμάζω μέντοι καὶ | τὸν σοφίας ἐραστήν, ὅτι τὴν αὐτὴν τέχνην ἐπιτετήδευκε, πολλὰ καὶ διαφέροντα ἐκ διαφερόντων εἰς ταὐτὸ συνάγειν καὶ συνυφαίνειν ἀξιῶν. λαβὼν γὰρ ἀπὸ μὲν τῆς παιδικῆς γραμματικῆς δύο τὰ πρῶτα, τό τε γράφειν καὶ τὸ ἀναγινώσκειν, ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς τελειοτέρας τήν τε παρὰ ποιηταῖς ἐμπειρίαν καὶ τὴν ἀρχαίας ἱστορίας ἀνάληψιν, παρὰ δὲ ἀριθμητικῆς καὶ γεωμετρίας τὸ ἀνεξαπάτητον ἐν οἷς ἀναλογίας καὶ λογισμῶν ἐστι χρεία, παρὰ δὲ μουσικῆς ῥυθμοὺς καὶ μέτρα, τά τε ἐναρμόνια καὶ χρωματικὰ καὶ διατονικὰ συνημμένα τε αὖ καὶ διεζευγμένα μέλη, παρὰ δὲ ῥητορικῆς εὕρεσιν, φράσιν, τάξιν, οἰκονομίαν, μνήμην, ὑπόκρισιν, παρὰ δὲ φιλοσοφίας ὅσα τε ἐν ταύταις παραλέλειπται καὶ ἄλλα ἐξ ὧν ἅπας ὁ ἀνθρώπων βίος συνέστηκεν, ἓν ἔργον εὐανθέστατον ἡρμόσατο, εὐμάθειαν πολυμαθείᾳ μίξας.

Wellcome MS 55, f.93., Johann Linder (from here)

How To Be, from Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles 7.8-9

“Both habits, moreover, should be avoided. Don’t imitate bad people, because there are many of them, nor hate the many, because you aren’t like them. Take shelter in yourself, whenever you can. Spend time with people who will make you a better person. Embrace those whom you can make better. Such improvement is a partnership, for people learn while they teach.”

Utrumque autem devitandum est; neve similis malis fias, quia multi sunt, neve inimicus multis, quia dissimiles sunt. Recede in te ipsum, quantum potes. Cum his versare, qui te meliorem facturi sunt. Illos admitte, quos tu potes facere meliores. Mutuo ista fiunt, et homines, dum docent, discunt.

Seneca, De Beata Vita 17-18

“ ‘This is enough for me: to each day lose one of my vices and recognize my mistakes. I have not perfected my health, nor certainly will I. I hope to relieve my gout rather than cure it, happy if it comes less frequently and cause less pain. But when I compare myself to your feet, I am a sprinter even though crippled.’

I do not say these things for myself—since I am deep in every kind of vice—but for the person who has done something.

You say, “You talk one way but you live another.” This insult, most shameful and hateful friend, was thrown at Plato, tossed at Epicurus, and dropped on Zeno. For all these people were talking not about how they were living themselves but about how they should live. When it comes to virtue, I do not talk about myself, and my fight is with vices, but chiefly my own. When I can, I will live as I should.”

Hoc mihi satis est, cotidie aliquid ex vitiis meis demere et errores meos obiurgare. Non perveni ad sanitatem, ne perveniam quidem; delenimenta magis quam remedia podagrae meae compono, contentus, si rarius accedit et si minus verminatur; vestris quidem pedibus comparatus, debilis1 cursor sum.” Haec non pro me loquor—ego enim in alto vitiorum omnium sum—, sed pro illo, cui aliquid acti est.

 “Aliter,” inquis, “loqueris, aliter vivis.” Hoc, malignissima capita et optimo cuique inimicissima, Platoni obiectum est, obiectum Epicuro, obiectum Zenoni; omnes enim isti dicebant non quemadmodum ipsi viverent, sed quemadmodum esset ipsis vivendum. De virtute, non de me loquor, et cum vitiis convicium facio, in primis meis facio. 2Cum potuero, vivam quomodo oportet.

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Verdun, Bibl. mun., ms. 0070, f. 42v.

As Prolific as Chrysippus?

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 7.7 180 Chrysippus

“He was so famous for his dialectic that the majority of people supposed that if the gods had dialectic if would be no different from Chrysippus’. While he had plenty of material, he was not much mistaken in his phrasing too.

He was the hardest working philosopher of them all, as is clear from the mere list of his publications: for their count is beyond 705. But he did advance their number by writing often on the same matter and writing down everything he thought of and correcting it often while also using and abundance of citations. This was so severe that in one of his publications he set out nearly every part of Euripides’ Medea. When someone picked up the book and asked him what he was reading, he said “Chrysippus’ Medea.”

Οὕτω δ᾿ ἐπίδοξος ἐν τοῖς διαλεκτικοῖς ἐγένετο, ὥστε δοκεῖν τοὺς πλείους ὅτι εἰ παρὰ θεοῖς ἦν [ἡ] διαλεκτική, οὐκ ἂν ἄλλη ἦν ἢ ἡ Χρυσίππειος. πλεονάσας δὲ τοῖς πράγμασι τὴν λέξιν οὐ κατώρθωσε. πονικώτατός τε παρ᾿ ὁντινοῦν γέγονεν, ὡς δῆλον ἐκ τῶν συγγραμμάτων αὐτοῦ· τὸν ἀριθμὸν γὰρ ὑπὲρ πέντε καὶ ἑπτακόσιά ἐστιν. ἐπλήθυνε δ᾿ αὐτὰ πολλάκις ὑπὲρ τοῦ αὐτοῦ δόγματος ἐπιχειρῶν καὶ πᾶν τὸ ὑποπεσὸν γράφων καὶ διορθούμενος πλεονάκις πλείστῃ τε τῶν μαρτυριῶν παραθέσει χρώμενος· ὥστε καὶ ἐπειδή ποτ᾿ ἔν τινι τῶν συγγραμμάτων παρ᾿ ὀλίγον τὴν Εὐριπίδου Μήδειαν ὅλην παρετίθετο καί τις μετὰ χεῖρας εἶχε τὸ βιβλίον, πρὸς τὸν πυθόμενον τί ἄρα ἔχοι, ἔφη, “Χρυσίππου Μήδειαν.”

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