8. What is Fortune & Chance?

What Chance has made yours, is not really yours.
Fortune; for we think that we hold them in our grasp, but they hold us in theirs. 

On the Philosopher’s Seclusion

“Do you bid me,” you say, “shun the throng, & withdraw from people, & be content with my own conscience? Where are the counsels of your school, which order a person to die in the midst of active work?”

As to the course which I seem to you to be urging on you now & then, my object in shutting myself up & locking the door is to be able to help a greater number.

I never spend a day in idleness; I appropriate even a part of the night for study.

I do not allow time for sleep but yield to it when I must, & when my eyes are wearied with waking & ready to fall shut, I keep them at their task. 

I have withdrawn not only from people, but from affairs, especially from my own affairs; I am working for later generations, writing down some ideas that may be of assistance to them.

There are certain wholesome counsels, which may be compared to prescriptions of useful drugs; these I am putting into writing; for I have found them helpful in ministering to my own sores, which, if not wholly cured, have at any rate ceased to spread.

I point other people to the right path, which I have found late in life, when wearied with wandering.
I cry out to them: “Avoid whatever pleases the throng: avoid the gifts of Chance!

Halt before every good which Chance brings to you, in a spirit of doubt & fear; for it is the animals & fish that are deceived by tempting hopes.

Do you call these things the ‘gifts’ of Fortune? They are snares.

Any one among you who wishes to live a life of safety will avoid, to the utmost of their power, these limed twigs of its favour, by which we mortals, most wretched in this respect also, are deceived;

Fortune: for we think that we hold them in our grasp, but they hold us in theirs. 

Such a career leads us into precipitous ways, & life on such heights ends in a fall.

Moreover, we cannot even stand up against prosperity when it begins to drive us to leeward; nor can we go down, either, ‘with the ship at least on its course,’ or once for all; Fortune does not capsize us, – it plunges our bows under & dashes us on the rocks.

“Hold fast, then, to this sound & wholesome rule of life; that you indulge the body only so far as is needful for good health. The body should be treated more rigorously, that it may not be disobedient to the mind.

Eat merely to relieve your hunger; drink merely to quench your thirst; dress merely to keep out the cold; house yourself merely as a protection against personal discomfort.

It matters little whether the house be built of turf, or of variously coloured imported marble; understand that a person is sheltered just as well by a thatch as by a roof of gold.

Despise everything that useless toil creates as an ornament & an object of beauty.

Reflect that nothing except the soul is worthy of wonder; for to the soul, if it be great, naught is great.”

When I commune in such terms with myself & with future generations, do you not think that I am doing more good than when I appear as counsel in court, or stamp my seal upon a will, or lend my assistance in the senate, by word or action, to a candidate?

Believe me, those who seem to be busied with nothing are busied with the greater tasks; they are dealing at the same time with things mortal & things immortal.

But I must stop, & pay my customary contribution, to balance this letter. The payment shall not be made from my own property; for I am still conning Epicurus.

I read to-day, the following sentence: “If you would enjoy real freedom, you must be the slave of Philosophy.” The person who submits & surrenders themselves to it is not kept waiting; One is emancipated on the spot.

For the very service of Philosophy is freedom.

I recall that you yourself expressed this idea much more happily & concisely:

What Chance has made yours, is not really yours.
The good that could be given, can be removed.

Farewell.

Seneca, StoicTaoist.

什么是财富与巧合?

巧合带来的机遇,不是真正属于你的。
财富;当我们以为我们抓住了它,它已牢牢扣住了我们。

论哲学家的隐逸

“你吩咐我,”你说,“避开人群,远离人群,满足于我自己的良心吗?你的顾问在哪里,当他命令一个人,终止正在积极工作的人群?”

至于我现在和那时似乎在敦促你们采取的行动,我闭嘴锁门的目的是为了能够帮助更多的人。

我从不在闲散中度过一天;我甚至拨出一部分时间学习。

我不允许有时间睡觉,但在我必须睡觉的时候,当我的眼睛因醒来而疲倦,准备闭上时,我会让他们续时闭上。

我不仅远离人们,也远离事务,尤其是我自己的事务;我为后代工作,写下一些可能对他们有帮助的想法。

有一些有益健康的建议,可以与有用药物的处方相比较;这些我正在写下来;因为我发现它们有助于治疗我自己的疮,这些疮即使不能完全治愈,至少已经停止蔓延。

我为别人指出了正确的道路,这是我在晚年厌倦了流浪时发现的。

我向他们喊道:“避开群众喜欢的任何东西:避开巧合的礼物!

带着怀疑和恐惧的精神,在巧合带给你的每一件好事面前停下脚步,因为正是动物和鱼被诱人的希望所欺骗。

你称这些东西为巧合的“财富”吗?它们是陷阱。

你们中间任何一个希望过上安全生活的人,都会尽最大的努力避免这些对他们有利的石灰树枝,我们这些在这方面最不幸的人也会被这些树枝所欺骗,

财富: 正当我们认为已抓住了它,但它却已牢牢抓住了我们。

这样的职业将我们引向险峻的道路&在这样的高度上的生活以失败告终。

此外,当繁荣开始将我们推向背风时,我们甚至无法抵御它;我们也无法“至少在船的航向上”或永远地沉下去;命运不会倾覆我们——它会把我们的船头压下去,把我们撞在岩石上。

“那么,坚持这一健康的生活法则;你只在身体健康所需的范围内放纵身体。身体应该受到更严格的对待,这样它就不会违背精神。

吃东西只是为了减轻饥饿;喝酒只是为了解渴;穿衣服只是为了御寒;房子仅仅是为了防止个人的不适。

房子是用草皮建造还是用各种颜色的进口大理石建造都无关紧要;要明白,茅草屋和黄金屋顶一样可以庇护一个人。

鄙视一切无用的辛劳创造出来的装饰品和美丽的东西。

思考除了灵魂之外,没有什么值得惊奇;因为对于灵魂来说,如果它伟大,那么什么都不能相比。”

当我以这样的方式与自己和子孙后代交流时,你不认为我做得比我作为律师出庭、在遗嘱上盖章、或在参议院以言语或行动协助某位候选人更好吗?

相信我,那些似乎无所事事的人正忙于更大的任务;他们同时在处理凡人和不朽的事物。

但我必须停下来,支付我惯常的捐款,以平衡这封信。这笔钱不能用我自己的财产支付,因为我仍然在欺骗伊壁鸠鲁。

我今天在他的作品中读到了这样一句话:“如果你想享受真正的自由,你必须是哲学的奴隶。”向哲学屈服和投降的人不会一直等待,而是当场获得解放。

因为哲学的服务就是自由。

我记得你自己表达这一想法时更为高兴和简洁:

巧合成就的你,其实不是你的。

可以给予的财富,也可以被夺走。

再会。

塞内卡,坚道学。

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