Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seneca Letter 60


Queror, litigo, irascor. Etiamnunc optas, quod tibi optavit nutrix tua aut paedagogus aut mater? Nondum intellegis quantum mali optaverint? O quam inimica nobis sunt vota nostorum! Eo quidem inimiciora quo cessere felicius. Iam non admiror si omnia nos a prima puerita mala sequuntur; inter execrationes parentum crevimus. Exaudiant di nostram quoque pro nobis vocem gratuitam.
Quousque poscemus aliquid deos ita quasi nondum ipsi alere nos possimus? Quamdiu sationibus implebimus maginarum urbium campos? Quamdiu nobis populus metet? Quamdiu unius mensae instrumentum multa navigia et quidem non ex uno mari subvehent? Taurus paucissimorum iugerum pascuo impletur; una silva elephantis pluribus sufficit; homo et tarra et mari pascitur. Quid ergo? Tam insatiabilem nobis natura alvum dedit, cum tam modica corpora dedisset, ut vastissimorum edacissimorumque animalium aviditatem vinceremus? Minime. Quantulum est enim quod naturae datur! Parvo illa dimittitur. Non fames nobis ventris nostri magno constat, sed ambitio. Hos itaque, ut ait Sallustius, "ventri oboedientes," animalium loco numeremus, non hominum, quosdam vero ne animalium quidem, sed mortuorum. Vivit is qui multis usui est; vivit is qui se utitur. Qui vero latitant et torpent sic in domo sunt quomodo in conditivo. Horum licet in limine ipso nomen marmori insribas: MORTEM SUAM ANTECESSERUNT. VALE.


I complain, I quarrel, I am angry. Even now do you wish for that which your nurse or your guide or your mother chose for you? Do you not yet understand how much evil they wished for? Oh how harmful to us are the wishes of our friends and family. Indeed, the more favorably their prayers have turned out, the more harmful they are. I no longer wonder if all evils follow us from the beginning of boyhood; we have grown among the curses of parents. Let the gods also hear our voice free of everything else on our own behalf instead of our friends' and family's.
For how long will we beg something of the gods thus as if we are not yet able to support ourselves? For how long will we fill the fields of great cities with planting? For how long will the people reap for us? For how long will many ships convey the stuff of one table and certainly not of a single sea? A bull is filled by grazing of the smallest fields; one forest is enough for many elephants; man is nourished by both land and sea. What then? So has nature given such an insatiable belly to us although it gave us such moderate bodies, so that we can surpass the desire of the largest and greediest animals? Not in the least. Indeed how little is that which is given to nature! She is sent away with very little. The hunger of our belly does not hurt us much, but ambition does. Therefore let us count those, just as Sallus said, "who obey stomachs," in the place of animals, not of men, indeed certain ones not even of the living, but of the dead. He who is useful to many people lives; he who makes use of himself lives. Certainly those who are hidden and lethargic are thus in a home as though in a tomb. Perhaps you should inscribe the name of those in the doorway of marble itself: THEY HAD GONE BEFORE THEIR OWN DEATH. GOODBYE.

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