“We humans really have a fantastic reluctance to see uncomfortable things for what they are and often do not until some cataclysmic event happens, and often not until it is too late. It is a blessing and a curse both, and it has kept us together, but has also brought us deep into brutality and cruelty so many times before.”
“If you plan on heading off to war, knowing your enemy is not enough. You also have to clearly see your own weaknesses well, so you avoid overestimating the strength of your own position. In the end, the victor isn’t necessarily the one who is right, but the one who has the strongest support, and it is his words that will be noted down in history as true. Failing to understand this can lead you to hurt the very thing you fight for.”
“I have no doubt, too, they may be very helpful to the uninitiated and those who are still novices, for individual aphorisms in a small compass, rounded off in units rather like lines of verse, become fixed more readily in the mind. It is for this reason that we give children proverbs and what the Greeks call chriae to learn by heart, a child’s mind being able to take these in at a stage when anything more would be beyond its capacity. But in the case of a grown man who has made incontestable progress it is disgraceful to go hunting after gems of wisdom, and prop himself up with a minute number of the best known sayings, and be dependent on his memory as well, it is time he was standing on his own feet. He should be delivering himself of such sayings, not memorizing them.
Assume authority yourself and utter something that may be handed down to posterity. Produce something from your own resources. This is why I look on people like this as a spiritless lot – the people who are forever lurking in someone else’s shadow. They never venture to do for themselves the things they have spent such a long time learning. They exercise their memory on things that are not their own. It is one thing, however, to remember, another to know.”
– Seneca, letters to the boy who would become Emperor Nero
In these times of a never ending stream of memes and quotes, a quote worth considering.
“Always be particularly careful and sceptical with things that appear to confirm your beliefs.”
“For anything that is hammered by a blow, day after day
However softly struck, at length is conquered and gives way.
Haven’t you seen how drops of water falling on their own
Have the power, over time, to wear their way through stone?”
– Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, 50BC
This is quite fundamental for life and the importance of persistance, individually and for society. Many small changes together, over time, create large, important ones. And in this lies hope, but also great danger.
“If you possess a firm grasp of these tenets, you will see
That Nature, rid of harsh taskmasters, all at once is free,
And everything she does, does on her own, so that gods play
No part. For by the holy hearts of gods, who while away
Their tranquil immortality in peace! – Who can hold sway
Over their measureless universe? Who is there who can keep
Hold of the reins that curb the power of the fathomless deep?
– – –
Flesh and spirit both are mortal that much is decided,
since both can be cut into many pieces and divided.
– – –
Thus I repeat, you must admit that spirits cannot be
Without beginnings, nor are they immune from Death’s decree.”
– Lucretius, On The Nature Of Things, 50BC