Seneca, from Book XX, “Of a Happy Life”

Ovid wrote, ”Philosophers do not carry into effect all that they teach.” True. But philosophers do affect some for good through their noble conceptions. Indeed, they would be much happier if they could live up to their own words!

Despite human shortcomings, we have no cause to despise the good sayings of good hearts. Even when their actions fall short, people who think good thoughts deserve respect. When we start a steep climb, we may not finish it. We need to look with respect upon those who even make the attempt. It is the act of a generous heart to think of lofty goals and to conceive of ways for us to achieve them. For example:

I will look upon death and comedy with the same expression on my face.

I will work to stay healthy in both body and mind.

I will despise wealth as much when I have it as when I do not. I will not be gloomy when I am broke, nor will I be more lively when riches sparkle around me.

Lucky or unlucky, I will not worry. 

I will see all property as if it belongs to me and my own property as if it belongs to all of humanity.

I will live remembering that I was born to serve others, thanking Nature for the chance. Nature has given me to all and all to me.

Whatever I have, I will not hoard it nor will I squander it.

I will consider no possessions as real until I have given them to others.

I won’t keep score concerning what is beneficial to me, valuing everything by the value given by those I give them to.

Never will I consider a gift too large if it goes to something worthy.

I will do nothing because it is popular but everything because of conscience.

Anything that I do unseen, I will consider that everyone sees me.

In eating and drinking by goal will be to quench my hunger and thirst, not to gorge.

I will be a friend to my friends and gentle to my enemies.

I will forgive before I am asked and will meet honorable people half way.

I will keep in mind that the entire world is my hometown . . .

When the time comes that either Nature demands my breath back or that reason tells me to dismiss it, I will leave this life, asking all to witness that I have loved a good conscience and good actions, that no one’s freedom—including my own—has been hindered because of me.


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