Contemplate This: Bad Things are Going to Happen

Seneca, Moral Epistles 91.6-7

“Chance selects some new way to apply her strengths to us when we forget her.  A single day can break up and scatter something built over over the years through great labor and indulgence from the gods. Well, whoever said “day” has given a long delay to the troubles rushing our way–an hour, a minute of time is enough for overthrowing empires. There would be some comfort for our weakness and our efforts if all things would just pass away at the same speed as their development; but the truth is that improvements happen slowly, and destruction rushes on.

Nothing is stable in private or in public. Human fate turns just like that of cities. Fear presses on during the greatest calm and even though there’s nothing from without causing it, troubles appear where they were expected the least. Regimes that have endured civil war and external conflict crumble without anyone attacking them. How rare is the state that has maintained its good fortune!”

So, we have to think about everything and make our minds resolved for the things that can happen. Contemplate this: exile, torture of sickness, wars, shipwrecks.”

Eligit aliquid novi casus, per quod velut oblitis vires suas ingerat. Quidquid longa series multis laboribus, multa deum indulgentia struxit, id unus dies spargit ac dissipat. Longam moram dedit malis properantibus, qui diem dixit; hora momentumque temporis evertendis imperiis sufficit. Esset aliquod inbecillitatis nostrae solacium rerumque nostrarum, si tam tarde perirent cuncta quam fiunt; nunc incrementa lente exeunt, festinatur in damnum. Nihil privatim, nihil publice stabile est; tam hominum quam urbium fata volvuntur. Inter placidissima terror existit nihilque extra tumultuantibus causis mala, unde minime exspectabantur, erumpunt. Quae domesticis bellis steterant regna, quae externis, inpellente nullo ruunt. Quota quaeque felicitatem civitas pertulit? Cogitanda ergo sunt omnia et animus adversus ea quae possunt evenire, firmandus. Exilia, tormenta morbi, bella, naufragia meditare.

GIF from the moving AIRPLANE where the flight attendant says "everybody get in crash positions" and the passengers all rearrange themselves as if they had crashed unprepared.


“What is this insanity in anticipating your troubles?!”

Seneca, Moral Epistle 98

“Therefore I do not suggest that you be indifferent. Rather, you should avoid whatever makes you fear. Whatever can be anticipated through planning, anticipate. Whatever would do you harm, spot it and avoid it long before it happens. In this, confidence and a mind hardened enough to tolerate everything will bring you the greatest aid. Whoever can endure fortune, can also beware of it. Certainly, there are no rolling waves on tranquil waters. Nothing is more pitiful or foolish than fearing things ahead of time! What is this insanity in anticipating your troubles!

Finally, to summarize briefly what I believe and to outline for you those troublemakers and self-abusers—for they are as intemperate in their misfortunes as they were before them. The person suffers more than is needed who suffers before it is needed. This kind of a person does not put his sorrow in perspective for the same reason he does not expect it—because of the same intemperance he imagines that his own happiness will last forever and that whatever he encounters will continue to improve as long as they last. Forgetful of the balance upon which all human affairs are chanced, one safeguards for himself only the consistency of chance.”

Nec ideo praecipio tibi neglegentiam. Tu vero metuenda declina. Quidquid consilio prospici potest, prospice. Quodcumque laesurum est, multo ante quam accidat, speculare et averte. In hoc ipsum tibi plurimum conferet fiducia et ad tolerandum omne obfirmata mens. Potest fortunam cavere, qui potest ferre. Certe in tranquillo non tumultuatur. Nihil est nec miserius nec stultius quam praetimere. Quae ista dementia est malum suum antecedere? Denique ut breviter includam quod sentio, et istos satagios ac sibi molestos describam tibi, tam intemperantes in ipsis miseriis quam sunt ante illas. Plus dolet quam necesse est, qui ante dolet quam necesse est; eadem enim infirmitate dolorem non aestimat, qua non exspectat; eadem intemperantia fingit sibi perpetuam felicitatem suam, fingit crescere debere quaecumque contigerunt, non tantum durare; et oblitus huius petauri, quo humana iactantur, sibi uni fortuitorum constantiam spondet.

Image result for Ancient Roman Shipwreck frieze
Marble Relief on the Copenhagen Sarcophagus, 3rd Century CE