Saturday, September 25, 2010

Seneca Letter 43

SENECA LUCILIO SUO SALUTEM:

Quomodo hoc ad me pervenerit quaeris, quis mihi id te cogitare narraverit quod tu nulli narraveras? Is qui scit plurimum, rumor. "Quid ergo?" inquis. "Tantus sum ut possim excitare rumorem?" Non est quod te ad hunc locum respiciens metiaris; ad istum respice in quod moraris. Quicquid inter vicina eminet magnum est illic ubi eminet. Nam magnitudo non habet modum certum; comparatio illam aut tollit aut deprimit. Navis, quae in flumine magna est, in mari parvula est. Gubernaculum, quod alteri navi magnum, alteri exiguum est.
Tu nunc in provincia, licet contemnas ipse te, magnus es. Quid agas, quemadmodum cenes, quemadmodum dormias, quaeritur, scitur; eo tibi diligentius vivendum est. Tunc autem felicem esse te iudica, cum poteris in publico vivere, cum te parietes tui tegent, non abscondent, quos plerumque circumdatos nobis iudicamus non ut tutius vivamus, sed ut peccemus occultius. Tem dicam ex qua mores aestimes nostros: vix quemquam invenies qui possit aperto ostio vivere. Ianitores conscientia nostra, non superbia opposuit; sic vivimus ut deprendi sit subito adspici. Quid autem prodest recondere se et oculos hominum auresque vitare? Bona conscientia turbam advocat; mala etiam in solitudine anxia atque sollicita est. Si honesta sunt quae facis, omnes sciant; si turpia, quid refert neminem scire, cum tu scias? O te miserum, si contemnis hunc testem! VALE.



SENECA GIVES GREETING TO HIS LUCILIUS:
You may ask how this came to me, who told me that you are thinking this, that which you have told to no one? Rumor is he who knows the most. "What then?" you say. "Am I so great that I am able to excite rumor?" It is not necessary to measure yourself looking back at that place; look back at that place in which you dwell. Whatever stands out among neighboring places is great in that place where it stands out. For greatness does not have a sure limit; comparison either raises or lowers that greatness. A ship which is great in the river is small in the sea. A rudder which is great for one ship, is small for another.
You now are great in the province, although you think little of yourself. That which you do, how you eat, how you sleep, is known and sought; therefore you need to live more attentively. Then, however, judge yourself to be happy when you are able to live in public, when your walls will cover you, not hide you, which we judge to surround us not in order that we live more safely, but that we sin more secretly. I should say this thing from which you judge our morals: you will scarcely find anyone who is able to live with an open door. Our conscience, not our pride puts the guards before the door; so we live in such a way that to be suddenly seen is to be caught. Moreover, what is the use to hide oneself and avoid the eyes and ears of men? A good conscience calls a crowd; a bad conscience is anxious and uneasy even in solitude. If honest things are that which you do, everyone knows; if what you do is disgraceful, which it is important for nobody to know, since you know? Oh, miserable you, if you hate this witness! GOODBYE.

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