The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

Montaigne 1.33

I had never seen it either enjoined or practised, until that passage of Seneca fell into my hands, where, counselling Lucilius, a powerful personage and of great authority with the Emperor, to give up his life of pleasure and ostentation, and retire from worldly ambitions to a life of solitude and philosophic repose, to which Lucilius opposed some difficulties, he said: ‘My advice is, that either you quit this life you are leading, or life altogether; I do indeed counsel you to follow the easier path, and to untie rather than cut the knot you have tied so badly, provided that you cut it, if it cannot be otherwise untied. There is no man so cowardly but that he would rather fall once for all than be always tottering.’ I should have expected this advice to be conformable to the hard doctrines of the Stoics, but it is more strange that it should be borrowed of Epicurus, who writes in a similar vein and on a like occasion to Idomeneus.

—Montaigne (‘Of fleeing from pleasures at the price of life’, p. 218)

Quod interest inter splendorem et lucem, cum haec certam originem habeat ac suam ille niteat alieno, hoc inter hanc vitam et illam; haec fulgore extrinsecus veniente percussa est, crassam illi statim umbram faciet quisquis obstiterit; illa suo lumine inlustris est. Studia te tua clarum et nobilem efficient.

There is the same difference between these two lives as there is between mere brightness and real light; the latter has a definite source within itself, the other borrows its radiance; the one is called forth by an illumination coming from the outside, and anyone who stands between the source and the object immediately turns the latter into a dense shadow; but the other has a glow that comes from within. It is your own studies that will make you shine and will render you eminent.

—Seneca (Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, 21.2)


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