All vices sink into our whole being, if we do not crush them before they gain a footing
[Marcia was the daughter of the prominent historian Aulus Cremutius Cordus, and Seneca is writing to her because her grief for the loss of her son Metilius seemed to have become chronic, continuing three years after the tragedy. This is an exceprt of the letter which is composed of 26 parts.]
Let others use soft measures and caresses; I have determined to do battle with your grief, and I will dry those weary and exhausted eyes, which already, to tell you the truth, are weeping more from habit than from sorrow. I will effect this cure, if possible, with your goodwill: if you disapprove of my efforts, or dislike them, then you must continue to hug and fondle the grief which you have adopted as the survivor of your son. What, I pray you, is to be the end of it? All means have been tried in vain : the consolations of your friends, who are weary of offering them, and the influence of great men who are related to you: literature, a taste which your father enjoyed and which you have inherited from him, now finds your ears closed, and affords you but a futile consolation, which scarcely engages your thoughts for a moment. Even time itself, nature’s greatest remedy, which quiets the most bitter grief, loses its power with you alone. Three years have already passed, and still your grief has lost none of its first poignancy, but renews and strengthens itself day by day, and has now dwelt so long with you that it has acquired a domicile in your mind, and actually thinks that it would be base to leave it. All vices sink into our whole being, if we do not crush them before they gain a footing; and in like manner these sad, pitiable, and discordant feelings end by feeding upon their own bitterness, until the unhappy mind takes a sort of morbid delight in grief. I should have liked, therefore, to have attempted to effect this cure in the earliest stages of the disorder, before its force was fully developed; it might have been checked by milder remedies, but now that it has been confirmed by time it cannot be beaten without a hard struggle. In like manner, wounds heal easily when the blood is fresh upon them: they can then be cleared out and brought to the surface, and admit of being probed by the finger: when disease has turned them into malignant ulcers, their cure is more difficult. I cannot now influence so strong a grief by polite and mild measures: it must be broken down by force.
Happiness consists in frequent repetition of pleasure.
I wish you endless dreams and the furious desire to make some of them come true.
I wish you to love what you need to love and forget what you need to forget.
I wish you passions, I wish you silences. I wish you bird songs on waking up and children's laughter.
I wish you to respect the differences of others, because the merit and value of each one is often to be discovered. I wish you to resist the bogging down, the indifference and the negative virtues of our times.
Finally, I wish you never to give up research, adventure, life, love, because life is a magnificent adventure and no reasonable person should give it up without fighting a hard battle.
Above all, I wish you to be you, proud and happy, because happiness is our true destiny.
- 1968 -
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it.