Introduction. The Stoics saw the world as a single great community in which all men are brothers, ruled by a supreme providence which could be spoken of, almost according to choice or context, under a variety of names or descriptions including the divine reason, creative reason, nature, the spirit or purpose of the universe, destiny, a personal god, even (by way of concession to traditional religion) 'the gods'. It is man‟s duty to live in conformity with the divine will, and this means, firstly, bringing his life into line with 'nature's laws', and secondly, resigning himself completely and uncomplainingly to whatever fate may send him. Living 'in accordance with nature' means not only questioning convention and training ourselves to do without all except the necessities (plain food, water, basic clothing and shelter) but developing the inborn gift of reason which marks us off as different from the animal world. There's nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. The 'supreme ideal' is a combination of four qualities: wisdom (or moral insight), courage, self-control, and justice (or upright dealing). It enables a man to be 'self-sufficient', immune to suffering, superior to the wounds and upsets of life. What we say should be of use, not just entertaining. Letter II. Nothing is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man‟s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company. To be everywhere is to be nowhere. People who spend their whole life traveling abroad end up having plenty of places where they can find hospitality but no real friendships. It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more. You ask what is the proper limit to a person's wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough. Letter III. Trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one. People who never relax and people who are invariably in a relaxed state merit your disapproval. A balanced combination of the two attitudes is what we want; the active man should be able to take things easily, while the man who is inclined towards repose should be capable of action. Ask nature: she will tell you that she made both day and night. Letter V. Refrain from following the example of those whose craving is for attention, not their own improvement. Avoid shabby attire, long hair, an unkempt beard, an outspoken dislike of silverware, sleeping on the ground and all other misguided means to self-advertisement. The first thing philosophy promises us is the feeling of fellowship, of belonging to mankind and being members of a community; being different will mean the abandoning of that manifesto. Our motto is to live in conformity with nature: it is quite contrary to nature to torture one‟s body, to reject simple standards of cleanliness and make a point of being dirty, to adopt a diet that is not just plain but hideous and revolting. In the same way as a craving for dainties is a token of extravagant living, avoidance of familiar and inexpensive dishes betokens insanity. Anyone entering our homes should admire us rather than our furnishings. It is a great man that can treat his earthenware as if it was silver, and a man who treats his silver as if it was earthenware is no less great. Finding wealth an intolerable burden is the mark of an unstable mind. Limiting one's desires actually helps to cure one of fear. 'Cease to hope and you will cease to fear.' - Hecato. Hope and fear both project our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present. Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present. Letter VI. Nothing, however outstanding and however helpful, will ever give me any pleasure if the knowledge is to be for my benefit alone. 'What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.' - Hecato. That is progress indeed. Such a person will never be alone, and you may be sure he is a friend of all. Letter VII. Associating with people in large numbers is actually harmful: there is not one of them that will not make some vice or other attractive to us, or leave us carrying the imprint of it or bedaubed all unawares with it. The larger the size of the crowd we mingle with, the greater the danger. You should neither become like the bad because they are many, nor be an enemy of the many because they are unlike you. Retire into yourself as much as you can. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach. 'To me a single man is a crowd, and a crowd is a single man.' - Democritus. 'I am writing this not for the eyes of the many, but for yours alone: for each of us is audience enough for the other.' - Epicurus. Letter VIII. Indulge the body just so far as suffices for good health. It needs to be treated somewhat strictly to prevent it from being disobedient to the spirit. Your food should appease your hunger, your drink quench your thirst, your clothing keep out the cold, your house be a protection against inclement weather. Letter IX. If you wish to be loved, love. Great pleasure is to be found not only in keeping up an old and established friendship but also in beginning and building up a new one. An artist derives more pleasure from painting than from having completed a picture. Anyone thinking of his own interests and seeking out friendship with this in view is making a great mistake. Things will end as they began; he has secured a friend who is going to come to his aid if captivity threatens: at the first clank of a chain that friend will disappear. A person adopted as a friend for the sake of his usefulness will be cultivated only for so long as he is useful. If there is anything in a particular friendship that attracts a man other than the friendship itself, the attraction of some reward or other will counterbalance that of the friendship. The wise man is content with himself. Self-contented as he is, then, he does need friends – and wants as many of them as possible – but not to enable him to lead a happy life; this he will have even without friends. The supreme ideal does not call for any external aids. It is homegrown, wholly self-developed. Once it starts looking outside itself for any part of itself it is on the way to being dominated by fortune. Natural promptings (not thoughts of any advantage to himself) impel him towards friendship. “Any man who does not think that what he has is more than ample, is an unhappy man, even if he is the master of the whole world.“ - Stilbo. It does not make any difference what a man says; what matters is how he feels, and not how he feels on one particular day but how he feels at all times. All foolishness suffers the burden of dissatisfaction with itself. Letter XI. We need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing. Happy the man who improves other people not merely when he is in their presence but even when he is in their thoughts. And happy, too, is the person who can so revere another as to adjust and shape his own personality in the light of recollections, even, of that other. A person able to revere another thus will soon deserve to be revered himself. There is a need for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against you won't make the crooked straight. Letter XII. How nice it is to have outworn one's desires and left them behind. Death ought to be right there before the eyes of a young man just as much as an old one – the order in which we each receive our summons is not determined by our precedence in the register. Letter XV. Without wisdom the mind is sick, and the body itself, however physically powerful, can only have the kind of strength that is found in persons in a demented or delirious state. Letter XVI. No one can lead a happy life, or even one that is bearable, without the pursuit of wisdom, and that the perfection of wisdom is what makes the happy life, although even the beginnings of wisdom make life bearable. 'If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if according to people's opinions, you will never be rich.' - Epicurus. Letter XVIII. If the soul succeeds in avoiding either heading or being carried away in the direction of the temptations that lead people into extravagant living, no surer proof of its strength of purpose can be vouchsafed it. Remaining dry and sober takes a good deal more strength of will when everyone about one is puking drunk; it takes a more developed sense of fitness, on the other hand, not to make of oneself a person apart, to be neither indistinguishable from those about one nor conspicuous by one‟s difference, to do the same things but not in quite the same manner. For a holiday can be celebrated without extravagant festivity. Set aside now and then a number of days during which you will be content with the plainest of food, and very little of it, and with rough, coarse clothing, and will ask yourself, 'Is this what one used to dread?'. It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself to deal with difficult times. If you want a man to keep his head when the crisis comes you must give him some training before it comes. Letter XXVI. 'Rehearse death.' - Epicurus. A person who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. Letter XXVII. A sound mind can neither be bought nor borrowed. Poverty brought into accord with the law of nature is wealth. Letter XXVIII. What difference does it make how many masters a man has? Slavery is only one, and yet the person who refuses to let the thought of it affect him is a free man no matter how great the swarm of masters around him. 'A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation.' - Epicurus. A person who is not aware that he is doing anything wrong has no desire to be put right. You have to catch yourself doing it before you can reform. Be harsh with yourself at times. Letter XXXIII. If you press me I won't treat you so meanly – openhanded generosity it shall be. What have you said? How much longer are you going to serve under others‟ orders? Assume authority yourself and utter something that may be handed down to posterity. Produce something from your own resources. The people who are forever acting as interpreters and never as creators, always lurking in someone else‟s shadow. They never venture to do for themselves the things they have spent such a long time learning. They exercise their memories on things that are not their own. It is one thing, however, to remember, another to know. To remember is to safeguard something entrusted to your memory, whereas to know, by contrast, is actually to make each item your own, and not to be dependent on some original and be constantly looking to see what the master said. No new findings will ever be made if we rest content with the findings of the past. A man who follows someone else not only does not find anything, he is not even looking. The men who poineered the old routes are leaders, not our masters. Truth lies open to everyone. There has yet to be a monopoly of truth. And there is plenty of it left for future generations too. Letter XXXVIII. Lectures prepared beforehand and delivered before a listening audience are more resounding but less intimate. Philosophy is good advice, and no one gives advice at the top of his voice. What is required is not a lot of words but effectual ones. Words need to be sown like seed. No matter how tiny a seed may be, when it lands in the right sort of ground it unfolds its strength and from being minute expands and grows to a massive size. Letter XL. If pictures of absent friends are a source of pleasure to us, refreshing the memory and relieving the sense of void with a solace however insubstantial and unreal, how much more so are letters, which carry marks and signs of the absent friend that are real. For the handwriting of a friend affords us what is so delightful about seeing him again, the sense of recognition. Letter XLI. In each and every good man a god dwells. The soul that is elevated and well regulated, that passes through any experience as if it counted for comparatively little, that smiles at all the things we fear or pray for, is impelled by a force that comes from heaven. Man's ideal state is realized when he has fulfilled the purpose for which he was born. And what is it that reason demands of him? Something very easy – that he live in accordance with his own nature. Yet this is turned into something difficult by the madness that is universal among men; we push one another into vices. And how can people be called back to spiritual well-being when no one is trying to hold them back and the crowd is urging them on? Letter XLVII. A man who examines the saddle and bridle and not the animal itself when he is out to buy a horse is a fool; similarly, only an absolute fool values a man according to his clothes, or according to his social position, which after all is only something that we wear like clothing. 'He's a slave.' But he may have the spirit of a free man. 'He's a slave.' But is that really to count against him? Show me a man who isn't a slave; one is a slave to sex, another to money, another to ambition; all are slaves to hope or fear. I could show you a man who has been a Consul who is a slave to his 'little old woman', a millionaire who is the slave of a little girl in domestic service. I could show you some highly aristocratic young men who are utter slaves to stage artistes. And there's no state of slavery more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed. To be really respected is to be loved; and love and fear will not mix. That's why I think you're absolutely right in not wishing to be feared by your slaves, and in confining your lashings to verbal ones; as instruments of correction, beatings are for animals only. Letter XLVIII. If a thing is in your interest it is also in my own interest. Otherwise, if any matter that affects you is no concern of mine, I am not a friend. Friendship creates a community of interest between us in everything. We have neither successes nor setbacks as individuals; our lives have a common end. No one can lead a happy life if he thinks only of himself and turns everything to his own purposes. You should live for the other person if you wish to live for yourself. The assiduous and scrupulous cultivation of this bond, which leads to our associating with our fellow-men and believes in the existence of a common law for all mankind, contributes more than anything else to the maintenance of that more intimate bond I was mentioning, friendship. A person who shares much with a fellow human being will share everything with a friend. Straightforwardness and simplicity are in keeping with goodness. Even if you had a large part of your life remaining before you, you would have to organize it very economically to have enough for all the things that are necessary; as things are, isn‟t it the height of folly to learn inessential things when time‟s so desperately short. Letter LIII. Why does no one admit his failings? Because he's still deep in them. It's the person who's awakened who recounts his dream, and acknowledging one's failings is a sign of health. So let us rouse ourselves, so that we may be able to demonstrate our errors. But only philosophy will wake us; only philosophy will shake us out of that heavy sleep. Letter LIV. Being thrown out signifies expulsion from a place one is reluctant to depart from, and there is nothing the wise man does reluctantly. He escapes necessity because he wills what necessity is going to force on him. Letter LV. Soft living imposes on us the penalty of debility; we cease to be able to do the things we‟ve long been grudging about doing. The person who has run away from the world and his fellow-men, whose exile is due to the unsuccessful outcome of his own desires, who is unable to endure the sight of others more fortunate, who has taken to some place of hiding in his alarm like a timid, inert animal, he is not „living for himself‟, but for his belly and his sleep and his passions – in utter degradation, in other words. Transmit your thoughts all the way here. There‟s nothing to stop you enjoying the company of absent friends, as often as you like, too, and for as long as you like. This pleasure in their company – and there‟s no greater pleasure – is one we enjoy the more when we‟re absent from one another. For having our friends present makes us spoilt; as a result of our talking and walking and sitting together every now and then, on being separated we haven‟t a thought for those we‟ve just been seeing. One good reason, too, why we should endure the absence patiently is the fact that every one of us is absent to a great extent from his friends even when they are around. Possession of a friend should be with the spirit: the spirit‟s never absent: it sees daily whoever it likes. So share with me my studies, my meals, my walks. Life would be restricted indeed if there were any barrier to our imaginations. Letter LVI. The only true serenity is the one which represents the free development of a sound mind. People who are really busy never have enough time to become skittish. And there is nothing so certain as the fact that the harmful consequences of inactivity are dissipated by activity. Remember to test yourself and practice. Letter LXIII. Can you stand people who treat their friends with complete neglect and then mourn them to distraction, never caring about anyone unless they have lost him? And the reason they lament them so extravagantly then is that they are afraid people may wonder whether they did care; they are looking for belated means of demonstrating their devotion. Supposing someone lost his one and only shirt in a robbery, would you not think him an utter idiot if he chose to bewail his loss rather than look about him for some means of keeping out the cold and find something to put over his shoulders? You have buried someone you loved. Now look for someone to love. It is better to make good the loss of a friend than to cry over him. Even a person who has not deliberately put an end to his grief finds an end to it in the passing of time. And merely growing weary of sorrowing is quite shameful as a means of curing sorrow in the case of an enlightened man. I should prefer to see you abandoning grief than it abandoning you. Much as you may wish to, you will not be able to keep it up for very long, so give it up as early as possible. Letter LXV. The wise man and devotee of philosophy is needless to say inseparable from his body, and yet he is detached from it so far as the best part of his personality is concerned, directing his thoughts towards things far above. I am too great, was born to too great a destiny to be my body‟s slave. So far as I am concerned that body is nothing more or less than a fetter on my freedom. Refusal to be influenced by one‟s body assures one‟s freedom. What is death? Either a transition or an end. I am not afraid of coming to an end, this being the same as never having begun, nor of transition, for I shall never be in confinement quite so cramped anywhere else as I am here. Letter LXXVII. At present, you unhappy creature, slave you are, slave to your fellow-men, slave to circumstance and slave to life (for life itself is slavery if the courage to die be absent). You‟re leaving no duty undone, for there‟s no fixed number of duties laid down which you‟re supposed to complete. Every life without exception is a short one. Looked at in relation to the universe even the lives of Nestor and Sattia were short. With life – what matters is not how long the acting lasts, but how good it is. It is not important at what point you stop. Stop wherever you will – only make sure that you round it off with a good ending. Letter LXXVIII. Comforting thoughts contribute to a person's cure; anything which raises his spirits benefits him physically as well. There is nothing, my good Lucilius, quite like the devotion of one's friends for supporting one in illness and restoring one to health, or for dispelling one's anticipation and dread of death. Refuse to let the thought of death bother you: nothing is grim when we have escaped that fear. What in fact makes people who are morally unenlightened upset by the experience of physical distress is their failure to acquire the habit of contentment with the spirit. They have instead been preoccupied by the body. That is why a man of noble and enlightened character separates body from spirit and has just as much to do with the former, the frail and complaining part of our nature, as is necessary and no more, and a lot to do with the better, the divine element. Do not go out of your way to make your troubles any more tiresome than they are and burden yourself with fretting. Provided that one's thinking has not been adding anything to it, pain is a trivial sort of thing. If by contrast you start giving yourself encouragement, saying to yourself, “It's nothing – or nothing much, anyway – let's stick it out, it'll be over presently”, then in thinking it a trivial matter you will be ensuring that it actually is. Everything hangs on one's thinking. The love of power or money or luxurious living are not the only things which are guided by popular thinking. We take our cue from people‟s thinking even in the way we feel pain. A man is as unhappy as he has convinced himself he is. What's the good of dragging up sufferings which are over, of being unhappy now just because you were then? Would you rather have an illness that's long drawn out or one that's short and quick? Time adds nothing to the finer things in life. Letter LXXXIII. Drunkenness is nothing but a state of self-induced insanity. Letter LXXXVIII. What's the use, after all, of mastering a horse and controlling him with the reins at full gallop if you're carried away yourself by totally unbridled emotions? What's the use of overcoming opponent after opponent in the wrestling or boxing rings if you can be overcome by your temper? Take loyalty, the most sacred quality that can be found in a human breast, never corrupted by a bribe, never driven to betray by any form of compulsion, crying: 'Beat me, burn me, put me to death, I shall not talk – the more the torture probes my secrets the deeper I'll hide them! Take self-control, the quality which takes command of the pleasures; some she dismisses out of hand, unable to tolerate them; others she merely regulates, ensuring that they are brought within healthy limits; never approaching pleasures for their own sake, she realizes that the ideal limit with things you desire is not the amount you would like to but the amount you ought to take. To want to know more than is sufficient is a form of intemperance. Apart from which this kind of obsession with the liberal arts turns people into pedantic, irritating, tactless, self-satisfied bores, not learning what they need simply because they spend their time learning things they will never need. Letter XC. It is nature‟s way to subordinate the worse to the better. With dumb animals, indeed, the ones who dominate the group are either the biggest or the fiercest. The bull who leads the herd is not the weakling, but the one whose bulk and brawn has brought it victory over the other males. In a herd of elephants the tallest is the leader. Among human beings the highest merit means the highest position. So they used to choose their ruler for his character. Hence peoples were supremely fortunate when among them a man could never be more powerful than others unless he was a better man than they were. For there is nothing dangerous in a man‟s having as much power as he likes if he takes the view that he has power to do only what it is his duty to do. We were born into a world in which things were ready to our hands; it is we who have made everything difficult to come by through our own disdain for what is easily come by. Shelter and apparel and the means of warming body and food, all the things which nowadays entail tremendous trouble, were there for the taking, free to all, obtainable at trifling effort. With everything the limit corresponded to the need. It is we, and no one else, who have made those same things costly, spectacular and obtainable only by means of a large number of full-scale techniques. Nature suffices for all she asks of us. Luxury has turned her back on nature, daily urging herself on and growing through all the centuries, pressing men‟s intelligence into the development of the vices. First she began to hanker after things that were inessential, and then after things that were injurious, and finally she handed the mind over to the body and commanded it to be the out and out slave of the body‟s whim and pleasure. Philosophy shows us what are real and what are only apparent evils. The earth herself, untilled, was more productive, her yields being more than ample for the needs of peoples who did not raid each other. With any of nature‟s products, men found as much pleasure in showing others what they had discovered as they did in discovering it. No one could outdo or be outdone by any other. All was equally divided among people living in complete harmony. The stronger had not yet started laying hands on the weaker; the avaricious person had not yet started hiding things away, to be hoarded for his own private use, so shutting the next man off from actual necessities of life; each cared as much about the other as about himself. Weapons were unused; hands still unstained with human blood had directed their hostility exclusively against wild beasts. Letter XCI. This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events. The growth of things is a tardy process and their undoing is a rapid matter. A setback has often cleared the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to more exalted heights. You needn't believe the chatter of the people around you. Those people are afraid of these things by a kind of general consent. Are you going to feel alarm at death, then, in the same way as you might at some common report? What could be more foolish than a man‟s being afraid of people‟s words? It's rather rash to condemn a thing one knows nothing about. No one has power over us when death is within our own power. Letter CIV. The good man should go on living as long as he ought to, not just as long as he likes. What good has travel of itself ever been able to do anyone? It has never acted as a check on pleasure or a restraining influence on desires; it has never controlled the temper of an angry man or quelled the reckless impulses of a lover; never in fact has it rid the personality of a fault. It has not granted us the gift of judgement, it has not put an end to mistaken attitudes. All it has ever done is distract us for a little while, through the novelty of our surroundings, like children fascinated by something they haven‟t come across before. The instability, moreover, of a mind which is seriously unwell, is aggravated by it, the motion itself increasing the fitfulness and restlessness. This explains why people, after setting out for a place with the greatest of enthusiasm, are often more enthusiastic about getting away from it; like migrant birds, they fly on, away even quicker than they came. There isn't a single art which is acquired merely by being in one place rather than another. The trip doesn't exist that can set you beyond the reach of cravings, fits of temper, or fears. So long as you carry the sources of your troubles about with you, those troubles will continue to harass and plague you wherever you wander on land or on sea. What you must do, then, is mend your ways and get rid of the burden you‟re carrying. Keep your cravings within safe limits. Scour every trace of evil from your personality. If you want to enjoy your travel, you must make your travelling companion a healthy one. So long as you associate with a person who‟s mean and grasping you will remain a money-minded individual yourself. So long as you keep arrogant company, just so long will conceit stick to you. Cruelty you‟ll never say goodbye to while you share the same roof with a torturer. Familiarity with adulterers will only inflame your desires. If you wish to be stripped of your vices you must get right away from the examples others set of them. The miser, the swindler, the bully, the cheat, who would do you a lot of harm by simply being near you, are actually inside you. Move to better company. The only safe harbour in this life's tossing, troubled sea is to refuse to be bothered about what the future will bring and to stand ready and confident, squaring the breast to take without skulking or flinching whatever fortune hurls at us. How much more highly I rate these people's abilities than they do themselves ! I say that they are just as capable as others of doing these things, but won't. In any event what person actually trying them has found them prove beyond him? Who hasn't noticed how much easier they are in the actual doing? It's not because they're hard that we lose confidence; they're hard because we lack the confidence. First we have to reject the life of pleasures; they make us soft and womanish; they are insistent in their demands, and what is more, require us to make insistent demands on fortune. And then we need to look down on wealth, which is the wage of slavery. Gold and silver and everything else that clutters our prosperous homes should be discarded. Freedom cannot be won without sacrifice. If you set a high value on her, everything else must be valued at little. Letter CV. To be feared is to fear: no one has been able to strike terror into others and at the same time enjoy peace of mind himself. Nothing will help quite so much as just keeping quiet, talking with other people as little as possible, with yourself as much as possible. Nobody will keep the things he hears to himself, and nobody will repeat just what he hears and no more. To expect punishment is to suffer it; and to earn it is to expect it. Where there is a bad conscience, some circumstance or other may provide one with impunity, but never with freedom from anxiety; for a person takes the attitude that even if he isn't found out, there's always the possibility of it. His sleep is troubled. Whenever he talks about someone else‟s misdeed he thinks of his own, which seems to him all too inadequately hidden, all too inadequately blotted out of people‟s memories. A guilty person sometimes has the luck to escape detection, but never to feel sure of it. Letter CVII. One can do nothing better than endure what cannot be cured and attend uncomplainingly the God at whose instance all things come about. It is a poor soldier that follows his commander grumbling. So let us receive our orders readily and cheerfully, and not desert the ranks along the march – the march of this glorious fabric of creation in which everything we shall suffer is a strand. Letter CVIII. We mustn't take on more than we can manage. You shouldn't attempt to absorb all you want to – just what you've room for; simply adopt the right approach and you will end up with room for all you want. The more the mind takes in the more it expands. A person teaching and a person learning should have the same end in view: the improvement of the latter. The greedy man does no one any good, But harms no person more than his own self. A man is wealthy if he has attuned himself to his restricted means and has made himself rich on little. The best smell a body can have is no smell at all. Let us cut out all distractions and work away at this alone for fear that otherwise we may be left behind and only eventually realize one day the swiftness of the passage of this fleeting phenomenon, time, which we are powerless to hold back. Every day as it comes should be welcomed and reduced forthwith into our own possession as if it were the finest day imaginable. What flies past has to be seized at. No one to my mind lets humanity down quite so much as those who study philosophy as if it were a sort of commercial skill and then proceed to live in a quite different manner from the way they tell other people to live. What is needed is a steering hand, not talking. Letter CXIV. If the spirit is sound and healthy our style will be firm and forceful and virile, but if the spirit tumbles all the rest of our personality comes down in ruins with it. The queen unharmed, the bees all live at one; Once she is lost, the hive‟s in anarchy. The spirit is our queen. So long as she is unharmed, the rest remains at its post, obedient and submissive. If she wavers for a moment, in the same moment the rest all falters. Letter CXXII. More active and commendable still is the person who is waiting for the daylight and intercepts the first rays of the sun; shame on him who lies in bed dozing when the sun is high in the sky, whose waking hours commence in the middle of the day. All vices are at odds with nature, all abandon the proper order of thing. The man who lives extravagantly wants his manner of living to be on everybody‟s lips as long as he is alive. He thinks he is wasting his time if he is not being talked about. So every now and then he does something calculated to set people talking. You needn‟t be surprised to discover so much individuality where the vices are concerned. Vices are manifold, take countless different forms and are incapable of classification. Devotion to what is right is simple, devotion to what is wrong is complex and admits of infinite variations. It is the same with people‟s characters; in those who follow nature they are straightforward and uncomplicated, and differ only in minor degree, while those that are warped are hopelessly at odds with the rest and equally at odds with themselves. But the chief cause of this disease, in my opinion, is an attitude of disdain for a normal existence. These people seek to set themselves apart from the rest of the world even in the manner in which they organize their time-table, in just the same way as they mark themselves off from others by the way they dress, by the stylishness of their entertaining and the elegance of their carriages. People who regard notoriety as a reward for misbehaviour have no inclination for common forms of misbehaviour. And notoriety is the aim of all these people who live, so to speak, back to front. We therefore, Lucilius, should keep to the path which nature has mapped out for us and never diverge from it. For those who follow nature everything is easy and straightforward, whereas for those who fight against her life is just like rowing against the stream. Letter CXXIII. Nothing is burdensome if taken lightly, and how nothing need arouse one's irritation so long as one doesn't make it bigger than it is by getting irritated. My baker may be out of bread, but the farm manager will have some, or the steward, or a tenant. “Bad bread, yes!“ you'll say. Wait, then: it'll soon turn into good bread. Hunger will make you find even that bread soft and wheaty. One shouldn't, accordingly, eat until hunger demands. I shall wait, then, and not eat until I either start getting good bread again or cease to be fussy about bad bread. It is essential to make oneself used to putting up with a little. Even the wealthy and the well provided are continually met and frustrated by difficult times and situations. It is in no man's power to have whatever he wants; but he has it in his power not to wish for what he hasn't got, and cheerfully make the most of the things that do come his way. And a stomach firmly under control, one that will put up with hard usage, marks a considerable step towards independence. I‟m deriving immeasurable satisfaction from the way my tiredness is becoming reconciled to itself. I‟m not asking for masseurs, or a hot bath, or any remedy except time. What was brought on by exertion rest is taking away. And whatever kind of meal is on the way is going to beat an inaugural banquet for enjoyment. When the spirit has prepared itself beforehand, has called on itself in advance to show endurance, it is not so clear just how much real strength it possesses; the surest indications are the ones it gives on the spur of the moment, when it views annoyances in a manner not merely unruffled but serene, when it refrains from flying into a fit of temper or picking a quarrel with someone, when it sees to everything it requires by refraining from hankering after this and that, reflecting that one of its habits may miss a thing, but its own real self need never do so. Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We‟ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them. Look at the number of things we buy because others have bought them or because they‟re in most people‟s houses. One of the causes of the troubles that beset us is the way our lives are guided by the example of others; instead of being set to rights by reason we‟re seduced by convention. There are things that we shouldn‟t wish to imitate if they were done by only a few, but when a lot of people have started doing them we follow along, as though a practice became more respectable by becoming more common. Once they have become general, mistaken ways acquire in our minds the status of correct ones. Everyone‟s pages ride along with their faces smeared with cream in case the sun or the cold should spoil their delicate complexions; one is ashamed if there is no member of one‟s retinue of boys whose healthy cheeks call for protection with cosmetics. With all such people you should avoid associating. These are the people who pass on vices, transmitting them from one character to another. One used to think that the type of person who spreads tales was as bad as any: but there are persons who spread vices. And association with them does a lot of damage. For even if its success is not immediate, it leaves a seed in the mind, and even after we‟ve said goodbye to them, the evil follows us, to rear its head at some time or other in the future. In the same way as people who‟ve been to a concert carry about with them the melody and haunting quality of pieces they‟ve just heard, interfering with their thinking and preventing them from concentrating on anything serious, so the talk of snobs and parasites sticks in our ears long after we‟ve heard it. And it‟s far from easy to eradicate these haunting notes from the memory; they stay with us, lasting on and on, coming back to us every so often. This is why we must shut our ears against mischievous talk, and as soon as it starts, too; once such talk has made its entry and been allowed inside, it becomes a good deal bolder. Eventually it reaches the stage where it says that „virtue and philosophy and justice are just a lot of clap-trap. There‟s only one way to be happy and that‟s to make the most of life. Eating, drinking, spending the money that‟s been left to you, that‟s what I call living – and that‟s what I call not forgetting that you‟ve got to die some day, too. The days are slipping by, and life is running out on us, never to be restored. Why should we hesitate? What‟s the point of being wise? Our years won‟t always allow us a life of pleasure, and in the meantime while they‟re capable of it and clamouring for it, what‟s the point of thrusting austerity on them? Steal a march on death by disposing here and now of whatever he is going to take away. Look at you – no mistress, no boy to make your mistress jealous. Every day you go out sober. You eat as if you had to submit a daily account book to your father for approval. That‟s not living – that‟s merely being a part of the life enjoyed by other people. And what madness it is to deny yourself everything and so build up a fortune for your heir, a policy which has the effect of actually turning a friend into an enemy, through the very amount that you‟re going to leave him, for the more he‟s going to get the more gleeful he‟s going to be at your death. As for those sour and disapproving characters, those critics of other people‟s lives – and spoilers of their own – who set themselves up as moral tutors to society at large, you needn‟t give tuppence for them; you needn‟t ever have any hesitation when it comes to putting good living before a good reputation.‟. These are voices you must steer clear of like those which Ulysses refused to sail past until he was lashed to the mast. They have the same power: they lure men away from country, parents, friends and moral values, creating expectations in them only to make sport out of the wretchedness of lives of degradation.* How much better to pursue a straight course and eventually reach that destination where the things that are pleasant and the things that are honourable finally become, for you, the same. And we can achieve this if we realize that there are two classes of things attracting or repelling us. We are attracted by wealth, pleasures, good looks, political advancement and various other welcoming and enticing prospects: we are repelled by exertion, death, pain, disgrace and limited means. It follows that we need to train ourselves not to crave for the former and not to be afraid of the latter. Let us fight the battle the other way round – retreat from the things that attract us and rouse ourselves to meet the things that actually attack us. You know the difference, Lucilius, between the postures people adopt in climbing up and descending a mountain; those coming down a slope lean back, those moving steeply upwards lean forward, for to tilt one‟s weight ahead of one when descending, and backwards when ascending, is to be in league with what one has to contend with. The path that leads to pleasures is the downward one: the upward climb is the one that takes us to rugged and difficult ground. Here let us throw our bodies forward, in the other direction rein them back. No man‟s good by accident. Virtue has to be learnt. Pleasure is a poor and petty thing. No value should be set on it: it‟s something we share with dumb animals – the minutest, most insignificant creatures scutter after it. Glory‟s an empty, changeable thing, as fickle as the weather. Poverty‟s no evil to anyone unless he kicks against it. Death is not an evil. What is it then? The one law mankind has that is free of all discrimination. Superstition is an idiotic heresy: it fears those it should love: it dishonours those it worships. For what difference does it make whether you deny the gods or bring them into disrepute?‟ These are things which should be learnt and not just learnt but learnt by heart. Philosophy has no business to supply vice with excuses; a sick man who is encouraged to live in a reckless manner by his doctor has not a hope of getting well.