Seneca’s On Tranquillity of Mind

A series of short audio meditations on Seneca’s On Tranquillity of Mind, inspired by a book on the same topic written by Democritus around 400 BCE, and in turn inspiring Plutarch shortly thereafter.

I: Seneca explains that he prefers simple cloths and easily prepared food, not the kind that “goes out of the body by the same path by which it came in.”

I: I will obey the maxims of our school and plunge into public life, not because the purple robe attracts me, but in order that I may be able to be of use to my friends, my relatives, to all my countrymen, and indeed to all mankind.

II: What you desire, to be undisturbed, is a great thing, nay, the greatest thing of all, and one which raises a man almost to the level of a god.

II: Hence men undertake aimless wanderings and travel along distant shores, trying to soothe that fickleness of disposition which always is dissatisfied with the present. As Lucretius says: “Thus every mortal from himself does flee.”

II: How long are we to go on doing the same thing?

III: Seneca explains that there are many ways to help improve the human cosmopolis: one can be a candidate for public office, a defense lawyer, or a teacher. Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus encouraged involvement in politics, but where themselves teachers.

III: Often a man who is very old in years has nothing beyond his age by which he can prove that he has lived a long time.

IV: The services of a good citizen are never thrown away: he does good by being heard and seen, by his expression, his gestures, his silent determination, and his very walk.

V: We ought therefore, to expand or contract ourselves according as the state of things presents itself to us, or as Fortune offers us opportunities.