5. How to Live ? 如何生活?

How to Live ?

Live according to Nature.

On the Philosopher’s Mean

I commend you & rejoice in the fact that you are persistent in your studies, & that, putting all else aside,

you make it each day your endeavour to become a better person.

I do not merely exhort you to keep at it; I actually beg you to do so.

I warn you, however, not to act after the fashion of those who desire to be conspicuous rather than to improve,

by doing things which will rouse comment as regards your dress or general way of living.

Repellent attire, unkempt hair, open scorn of silver dishes, a couch on the bare earth,

& any other perverted forms of self-display, are to be avoided.

The mere name of philosophy, however quietly pursued, is an object of sufficient scorn;

& what would happen if we should begin to separate ourselves from the customs of our fellowships?

Inwardly, we ought to be different in all respects, but our exterior should conform to society.

Do not wear too fine, nor yet too frowzy, a toga.

One needs no silver plate, encrusted & embossed in solid gold;

but we should not believe the lack of silver & gold to be proof of the simple life.

Let us try to maintain a higher standard of life than that of the multitude, but not a contrary standard;

otherwise, we shall frighten away & repel the very persons whom we are trying to improve.

The first thing which philosophy undertakes to give is fellow-feeling with everyone;

in other words, sympathy & sociability.

We part company with our promise if we are unlike everyone else.

We must see to it that the means by which we wish to draw admiration be not absurd & odious.

Our motto, as you know, is

“Live according to Nature”;

but it is quite contrary to nature to torture the body, to hate unlaboured elegance, to be dirty on purpose,

to eat food that is not only plain, but disgusting & forbidding.

Just as it is a sign of luxury to seek out dainties,

so it is madness to avoid that which is customary & can be purchased at no great price.

Philosophy calls for plain living, but not for penance;

& we may perfectly well be plain & neat at the same time.

This is the mean of which I approve;

our life should observe a happy medium between the ways of a sage & the ways of the world at large;

all & one should admire it, but they should understand it also.

“Well then, shall we act like other people?

Shall there be no distinction between ourselves & the world?”

Yes, a very great one;

let people find that we are unlike the common herd, if they look closely.

If they visit us at home, they should admire us, rather than our household appointments.

One is a great person who uses earthenware dishes as if they were silver;

but One is equally great who uses silver as if it were earthenware.

It is the sign of an unstable mind not to be able to endure riches.

I wish to share with you to-day’s profit also, in the writings of Hecato that the limiting of desires helps also to cure fears:

“Cease to hope, & you will cease to fear.”

“But how,” you will reply, “can things so different go side by side?”

In this way, my dear Lucilius: though they do seem at variance, yet they are really united.

Just as the same chain fastens the prisoner & the soldier who guards them,

so hope & fear, dissimilar as they are, keep step together;

fear follows hope.

I am not surprised that they proceed in this way;

each alike belongs to a mind that is in suspense,

a mind that is fretted by looking forward to the future.

But the chief cause of both these ills is that we do not adapt ourselves to the present,

but send our thoughts a long way ahead.

And so foresight,

the noblest blessing of the human race, becomes perverted.

Many of our blessings bring bane to us;

for memory recalls the tortures of fear,

while foresight anticipates them.

The present alone can make no One wretched.

Beasts avoid the dangers which they see, & when they have escaped them are free from care;

but we torment ourselves

Over that which is to Come

as well as

Over that which is Past.


Stoic, Seneca, StoicTaoist。






















































所以 有远见,,





不能使任何人痛苦的 是现在。








4. Why do we Fear Death ? 我们为什么害怕死亡?

Why do we fear death ?
Unwilling to live, yet know not to die.


Keep on as you have begun, & make all possible haste, so that you may have longer enjoyment of an improved mind,

One that is at peace with itself.

Doubtless you will derive enjoyment during the time when you are improving your mind & setting it at peace with itself;

but quite different is the pleasure which comes from contemplation when one’s mind is so cleansed from every stain that it shines.

Nevertheless, you may look for a still greater joy when you have laid aside the mind of childhood & when wisdom has enrolled you among adults.

For it is not childhood that still stays with us, but something worse, – childishness.

And this condition is all the more serious because we possess the authority of old age, together with the follies of childhood, yea, even the follies of infancy.

Babies fear trifles, children fear shadows, we fear both.

All you need to do is to advance; you will thus understand that some things are less to be dreaded,

Precisely because they inspire us with great fear.

No evil is great which is the last evil of all.

Death arrives;

it would be a thing to dread, if it could remain with you.

But death must either not come at all, or else must come and pass away.

“It is difficult, however,” you say, “to bring the mind to a point where it can scorn life.”

But do you not see what trifling reasons impel people to scorn life?

One hangs oneself before the door of their lovers; another hurls themself from the house-top that they may no longer be compelled to bear the taunts of the bad-tempered; a third, to be saved from arrest after running away, drives a sword into their vitals.

Do you not suppose that virtue will be as efficacious as excessive fear?

No one can have a peaceful life who thinks too much about lengthening it, or believes that living through many consulships is a great blessing.

Rehearse this thought every day, that you may be able to depart from life contentedly;

for many people clutch & cling to life, even as those who are carried down a rushing stream clutch & cling to briars & sharp rocks.

Most people ebb & flow in wretchedness between the fear of death & the hardships of life;

They are unwilling to live, & yet they do not know how to die.

For this reason, make life as a whole agreeable to yourself by banishing all worry about it.

No good thing renders its possessor happy, unless their mind is reconciled to the possibility of loss;

Nothing, however, is lost with less discomfort than that which, when lost, cannot be missed.

Therefore, encourage and toughen your spirit against the mishaps that afflict even the most powerful.

No one has ever been so far advanced by Fortune that it did not threaten them as greatly as it had previously indulged them.

Do not trust it’s seeming calm; in a moment the sea is moved to its depths.

Reflect that an enemy may cut your throat; &, though they are not your master, every slave wields the power of life & death over you.

Therefore I declare to you: One is lord of their life that scorns their own.

Think of those who have perished through plots in their own homes, slain either openly or by guile; you will then understand that just as many have been killed by angry slaves as by angry kings.

What matter, therefore, how powerful one be whom you fear, when everyone possesses the power which inspires your fear?

“But,” you will say, “if you should chance to fall into the hands of the enemy, the conqueror will command that you be led away,”

– Yes, whither, you are already being led.

Why do you voluntarily deceive yourself & require to be told now for the first time what fate it is that you have long been labouring under?

Take my word for it: since the day you were born you are being led thither.

We must ponder this thought, & thoughts of the like nature, if we desire to be calm as we await that last hour, the fear of which makes all previous hours uneasy.

But I must end my letter. Let me share with you the saying which pleased me to-day. It, too, is culled from another man’s Garden:

“Poverty brought into conformity with the law of nature, is great wealth.”

Do you know what limits that law of nature ordains for us?

Merely to avert hunger, thirst, and cold.

In order to banish hunger & thirst, it is not necessary for you to pay court at the doors of the purse-proud, or to submit to the stern frown, or to the kindness that humiliates;

nor is it necessary for you to scour the seas, or go campaigning; nature’s needs are easily provided & ready to hand.

It is the superfluous things for which people sweat, – the superfluous things that wear our clothes threadbare, that force us to grow old in camp, that dash us upon foreign shores.

That which is enough is ready to our hands.

One who has made a fair compact with poverty is rich.


Stoic, Seneca, StoicTaoist。

Death Arrives














死亡 得来临;





































3. How to be Friends ?

One who reposes should act & One who acts should take repose.

When friendship is settled, you must trust; before friendship is formed, you must pass judgment.

How to be friends ?
Pass Judgment & Trust.

True and False Friendship.

You have sent a letter to me through the hand of a “friend” of yours.
And in your very next sentence you warn me not to discuss with them all the matters that concern you, saying that even you yourself are not accustomed to do this; in other words, you have in the same letter affirmed & denied that they are your friends. 

Now if you used this word of ours in the popular sense, & called them “friend” in the same way in which we speak of all candidates for election as “honourable persons,” and as we greet all people whom we meet casually, if their names slip us for the moment, with the salutation “my dear,” – so be it.

But if you consider anyone a friend whom you do not trust as you trust yourself, you are mightily mistaken & you do not sufficiently understand what true friendship means.

Indeed, I would have you discuss everything with a friend; but first of all discuss the person themselves.

When friendship is settled, you must trust; before friendship is formed, you must pass judgment.

Those people indeed put last first & confound their duties, who, violating the rules of Theophrastus, judge a person after they have made them their friends, instead of making them their friends after they have judged them.

Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit them, welcome them with all your heart & soul. Speak as boldly with them as with yourself. 

As to yourself, although you should live in such a way that you trust your own self with nothing which you could not entrust even to your enemy, yet, since certain matters occur which convention keeps secret, you should share with a friend at least all your worries & reflections.

Regard them as loyal, & you will make them loyal.

Some, for example, fearing to be deceived, have taught people to deceive; by their suspicions they have given their friends the right to do wrong.

Why need I keep back any words in the presence of my friend?
Why should I not regard myself as alone when in their company?

There is a class of people who communicate, to anyone whom they meet, matters which should be revealed to friends alone, & unload upon the chance listener whatever irks them.

Others, again, fear to confide in their closest intimates; & if it were possible, they would not trust even themselves, burying their secrets deep in their hearts.

But we should do neither.
It is equally faulty to trust everyone & to trust no one.
Yet the former fault is, I should say, the more ingenuous, the latter the more safe. 

In like manner you should rebuke these two kinds of people,
– both those who always lack repose, & those who are always in repose.

For love of bustle is not industry,
– it is only the restlessness of a hunted mind.

And true repose does not consist in condemning all motion as merely vexation; that kind of repose is slackness & inertia. 

Therefore, you should note the following saying, taken from my reading in Pomponius:
“Some people shrink into dark corners, to such a degree that they see darkly by day.”

No, people should combine these tendencies, &

One who reposes should act & One who acts should take repose.

Discuss the problem with Nature;

Nature will tell you that it has created both day & night.


Stoic, Seneca, StoicTaoist。

2. What is Enough ?


When being Everywhere means Nowhere.
Having what is necessary, is to have what is enough.

Discursiveness in Reading.

Judging by what you write me, and by what I hear, I am forming a good opinion regarding your future.

You do not run hither and thither and distract yourself by changing your abode;
for such restlessness is the sign of a disordered spirit.

The primary indication, to my thinking, of a well-ordered mind is a man’s ability to remain in one place and linger in his own company. 

Be careful, however, lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady.

You must linger among a limited number of master-thinkers, and digest their works,
if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.

Everywhere means nowhere.

When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.

And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner. 

Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten;
nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine;
no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another;
a plant which is often moved can never grow strong.

There is nothing so efficacious that it can be helpful while it is being shifted about.
And in reading of many books is distraction.

Accordingly, since you cannot read all the books which you may possess,
it is enough to possess only as many books as you can read. 

“But,” you reply, “I wish to dip first into one book and then into another.”

I tell you that it is the sign of an overnice appetite to toy with many dishes;
for when they are manifold and varied, they cloy but do not nourish.

So you should always read standard authors;
and when you crave a change, fall back upon those whom you read before.

Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty,
against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well;
and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day. 

This is my own custom; from the many things which I have read, I claim some one part for myself.

The thought for to-day is one which I discovered in Epicurus; he says

“Contented poverty is an honourable estate.”

Indeed, if it be contented, it is not poverty at all.
It is not the man who has too little,
but the man who craves more, that is poor.

What does it matter how much a man has laid up in his safe, or in his warehouse, how large are his flocks and how fat his dividends,
if he covets his neighbor’s property, and reckons, not his past gains, but his hopes of gains to come?

Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth?

It is, first,
to have what is necessary,
and, second,
to have what is enough.



Stoic, Seneca, StoicTaoist。

1. Set Me Free !

Saving Time.

Greetings from Seneca to his friend Lucilius. Continue to act thus, my dear Lucilius –

Set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time,

which till lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands.

Make yourself believe the truth of my words,

– that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach.

The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness.

Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill,

a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. 

What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily?

For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years lie behind us are in death’s hands.

Therefore, Lucilius, do as you write me that you are doing: hold every hour in your grasp.

Lay hold of to-day’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon to-morrow’s.

While we are postponing, life speeds by.

Nothing, is ours, except time.

We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession.

What fools these mortals be!

They allow the cheapest and most useless things, which can easily be replaced, to be charged in the reckoning, after they have acquired them;

but they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity,


And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.

You may desire to know how I, who preach to you so freely, am practicing.

I confess frankly: my expense account balances, as you would expect from one who is free-handed but careful.

I cannot boast that I waste nothing, but I can at least tell you what I am wasting, and the cause and manner of the loss;

I can give you the reasons why I am a poor man.

My situation, however, is the same as that of many who are reduced to slender means through no fault of their own:

every one forgives them, but no one comes to their rescue.

For, as our ancestors believed, it is too late to spare when you reach the dregs of the cask.

Of that which remains at the bottom, the amount is slight, and the quality is vile.

I advise you, however, to keep what is really yours; and you cannot begin too early.

What is the state of things, then?

It is this: I do not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains is enough for him.

Farewell 。