Letters From a Stoic by Seneca

Letters From a Stoic by Seneca

Author:Seneca [Seneca]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Books
Published: 1969-11-10T05:00:00+00:00

There may be pleasure in the memory

Of even these events one day.*

He should put his whole heart into the fight against them. If he gives way before them he will lose the battle; if he exerts himself against them he will win. What in fact most people do is pull down on their own heads what they should be holding up against; when something is in imminent danger of falling on you, the pressure of it bearing heavily on you, it will only move after you and become an even greater weight to support if you back away from it; if instead you stand your ground, willing yourself to resist, it will be forced back. Look at the amount of punishment that boxers and wrestlers take to the face and the body generally! They will put up none the less with any suffering in their desire for fame, and will undergo it all not merely in the course of fighting but in preparing for their fights as well: their training in itself constitutes suffering. Let us too overcome all things, with our reward consisting not in any wreath or garland, not in trumpet-calls for silence for the ceremonial proclamation of our name, but in moral worth, in strength of spirit, in a peace that is won for ever once in any contest fortune has been utterly defeated.

‘I’m suffering severe pain,’ you may say. Well does it stop you suffering it if you endure it in a womanish fashion? In the same way as the enemy can do far more damage to your army if it is in full retreat, every trouble that may come our way presses harder on the one who has turned tail and is giving ground. ‘But it’s really severe.’ Well, is courage only meant to enable us to bear up under what is not severe? Would you rather have an illness that’s long drawn out or one that’s short and quick? If it’s a long one it will have the odd interval, giving one opportunity for rallying, granting one a good deal of time free of it, having of necessity to pause in order to build up again. An illness that’s swift and short will have one of two results: either oneself or it will be snuffed out. And what difference does it make whether I or it disappears? Either way there’s an end to the pain.

Another thing which will help is to turn your mind to other thoughts and that way get away from your suffering. Call to mind things which you have done that have been upright or courageous; run over in your mind the finest parts that you have played. And cast your memory over the things you have most admired; this is a time for recollecting all those individuals of exceptional courage who have triumphed over pain: the man who steadily went on reading a book while he was having varicose veins cut out: the man who never stopped smiling under torture albeit that this angered his tormentors into trying on him every instrument of cruelty they had.



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