Retreat too Far into Darkness and You’ll Never See the Light

Seneca, Moral Epistles 3.4-6

“There’s a certain kind of person who tells everyone they meet details that should only be entrusted to friends and they unburden themselves on any available ear of whatever is annoying them. Other people withhold their true feeling from those closest to them–and, if they could, they would suppress every secret deep inside, distrustful even of themselves.

But neither way is right. It is as much a fault to trust everyone as it is to trust no one. The former mistake, however, I might call somewhat innocent, while the latter is safer. Really, you should criticize people who take both approaches, those who are always restless and those who are ever still. For delight in being busy is not rigor but instead is the treadmill of an unsettled mind. And yet it is not true rest to consider all movement annoying–that’s laziness and inattention.

So, take to mind instead this saying I read from Pomponius: “Some people retreat into shadows so far that they believe dark whatever is in the light.”

Quidam quae tantum amicis committenda sunt, obviis narrant et in quaslibet aures, quicquid illos urserit, exonerant. Quidam rursus etiam carissimorum conscientiam reformidant, et si possent, ne sibi quidem credituri interius premunt omne secretum. Neutrum faciendum est. Utrumque enim vitium est, et omnibus credere et nulli. Sed alterum honestius dixerim vitium, alterum tutius: sic utrosque reprehendas, et eos qui semper inquieti sunt, et eos qui semper quiescunt. Nam illa tumultu gaudens non est industria, sed exagitatae mentis concursatio. Et haec non est quies, quae motum omnem molestiam iudicat, sed dissolutio et languor. Itaque hoc, quod apud Pomponium legi, animo mandabitur: “quidam adeo in latebras refugerunt, ut putent in turbido esse, quicquid in luce est.” 

black and white photograph of light streaming from a paned window onto the walls of a dim factory. the room is otherwise empty
Frits De Long, “Light and Shadow” 2013

The Growth of Virtue and Needs of Friends

Pindar, Nemean 8.40-5

“Excellence grows just like a tree
Nourished on pale dew
Once it is raised up among
The wise and righteous to point toward
The watery sky.

Friends have all kinds of needs:
Help during suffering is foremost,
But joy also longs to make sure we see

αὔξεται δ᾿ ἀρετά, χλωραῖς ἐέρσαις
ὡς ὅτε δένδρεον ᾄσσει,
<ἐν> σοφοῖς ἀνδρῶν ἀερθεῖσ᾿
ἐν δικαίοις τε πρὸς ὑγρόν
αἰθέρα. χρεῖαι δὲ παντοῖαι φίλων ἀν-
δρῶν· τὰ μὲν ἀμφὶ πόνοις
ὑπερώτατα, μαστεύει δὲ καὶ
τέρψις ἐν ὄμμασι θέσθαι

Photograph of an oil painting with a young boy under a tree pointing in conversation to a dog. There is a sheep in the background
Edmund Bristow, “trust”. 1878 RCIN 406224 from Wikimedia Commons

Polybius, 1.5.2-5: We Need a Good Foundation for This House

“For this reason, we must also explain how the Romans settled affairs in Italy and with what circumstances they expanded into Sicily—for they took possession of that land first outside of Italy. It is also necessary to record the cause of their expansion without explanation, lest, if I should seek a cause for every cause, my whole investigation lack a starting point and focus. A beginning point should be in agreement with and recognizable in the right events, and one that is capable of being seen by many and evident in the events themselves, even if it demands us to go back in time a bit before the start of the affair to summarize the events between. For if there is ignorance, or Zeus forbid, dispute at a work’s inception, it is not possible for it to gain belief or trust in the end. Whenever some belief is secured at a work’s beginning, then the subsequent narrative obtains open-mindedness from its audience.”

διὸ καὶ ῥητέον ἂν εἴη πῶς καὶ πότε συστησάμενοι τὰ κατὰ τὴν ᾿Ιταλίαν καὶ τίσιν ἀφορμαῖς μετὰ ταῦτα χρησάμενοι διαβαίνειν ὥρμησαν εἰς Σικελίαν• ταύτῃ γὰρ τῇ γῇ πρῶτον ἐπέβησαν τῶν ἐκτὸς τόπων τῆς ᾿Ιταλίας. καὶ ῥητέον αὐτὴν τὴν τῆς διαβάσεως αἰτίαν ψιλῶς, ἵνα μὴ τῆς αἰτίας αἰτίαν ἐπιζητούσης ἀνυπόστατος ἡ τῆς ὅλης ὑποθέσεως ἀρχὴ γένηται καὶ θεωρία. ληπτέον δὲ καὶ τοῖς καιροῖς ὁμολογουμένην καὶ γνωριζομένην ἀρχὴν παρ’ ἅπασι καὶ τοῖς πράγμασι δυναμένην αὐτὴν ἐξ αὑτῆς θεωρεῖσθαι, κἂν δέῃ τοῖς χρόνοις βραχὺ προσαναδραμόντας κεφαλαιώδη τῶν μεταξὺ πράξεων ποιήσασθαι τὴν ἀνάμνησιν. τῆς γὰρ ἀρχῆς ἀγνοουμένης ἢ καὶ νὴ Δί’ ἀμφισβητουμένης οὐδὲ τῶν ἑξῆς οὐδὲν οἷόν τε παραδοχῆς ἀξιωθῆναι καὶ πίστεως• ὅταν δ’ ἡ περὶ ταύτης ὁμολογουμένη παρασκευασθῇ δόξα, τότ’ ἤδη καὶ πᾶς ὁ συνεχὴς λόγος ἀποδοχῆς τυγχάνει παρὰ τοῖς ἀκούουσιν.

Theognis 989-990


“Drink whenever they drink but let no man discover you’re burdened

whenever you’re sick in the heart.”


Πῖν’ ὁπόταν πίνωσιν· ὅταν δέ τι θυμὸν ἀσηθῆις,

μηδεὶς ἀνθρώπων γνῶι σε βαρυνόμενον.


I am not positive that this is good advice. It sounds nice…

(Theognis alone is intoxicating.)