16 November 2012

Seneca on dying powerfully

...vita, si moriendi virtus abest, servitus est. ... nulla tibi nova est, nulla non iam odiosa ipsa satietate. Quis sit vini, quis mulsi sapor scis: nihil interest centum per vesicam tuam an mille amphorae transeant: saccus es. ... Vivere vis: scis enim? Mori times: quid porro? ista vita non mors est? ... Quomodo fabula, sic vita: non quam diu, sed quam bene acta sit, refert. Nihil ad rem pertinet quo loco desinas. Quocumque voles desine: tantum bonam clausulam inpone. Seneca Epistulae ad Lucilium LXXVII

"...life, if the power of dying is absent, is servitude. ...   Nothing is new to you; there's nothing that isn't already hateful through satiety. What the taste of wines and cordials is, you know; it makes no difference whether your bladder passes a hundred or a thousand bottles -- you're just a sack. ...You want to live -- do you know how? You fear death -- what else? Is this life not death? ...  Like a fable, it isn't important how long life is, but how well it is acted. Nothing matters where you stop. Wherever you want, stop. Only impose a good ending."

The idea of dying powerfully with a good ending is alien to us today, isn't it?

05 November 2012

Seneca on philosophizing

Non cum vacaueris philosophandum est, sed ut philosopheris vacandum est; omnia alia neglegenda ut huic assideamus, cui nullum tempus satis magnum est, etiam si a pueritia usque ad longissimos humani aevi terminos vita producitur. Non multum refert utrum omittas philosophiam an intermittas; non enim ubi interrupta est manet, sed eorum more quae intenta dissiliunt usque ad initia sua recurrit, quod a continuatione discessit. (Seneca Ep. ad Lucilium LXXII)

"Not when you are free is the time to philosophize, but you have to free your time to philosophize; everything else is to be neglected so that we devote ourselves assiduously to that for which there is never enough time, even if life is extended from childhood to the longest extremes of human age. It doesn't matter much whether you omit philosophizing or it is intermittent, for it doesn't remain where it was when interrupted, but, in the same way as something compressed springs back, whatever lets up from continuity recurs to its initial state."

Does this message from Seneca make any sense today? Who's listening? Philosophy's not for everybody, yet everybody, unwittingly or not, lives its consequences.