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March 12, 2013

Seneca, On Favours

"Our ancestors complained about it, so do we, so will our descendants — the overthrow of morals, the reign of wickedness, the decline of human behaviour and collapse of any feeling for what is right. Yet all this remains and will remain where it was — with a slight movement in one direction or the other, like the waves which the tide, as it rises, lifts further inland and constrains, as it ebbs, to the inner line of the shore.

"At one moment, adultery will be more prevalent than other misbehaviour, as chastity kicks over the traces. At another, there will be a rage for dinner-parties and that most repulsive source of ruin to an estate, the kitchen. Or else you will find excess in adorning the body and a concern for personal apperance that exhibits a deformity of mind.

"At yet another time, an ill-regulated freedom will break out into impudent boldness. Or there will be a movement towards cruelty in individuals and peoples and the profanation, in the madness of civil war, of all that is holy and sacred.

"Or again, drunkenness may at times be held in honour, with a larger capacity than anyone else’s for wine counting as a virtue. Vices never stay in one place waiting for you. They are constantly on the move, in turbulent disagreement with each other. One thing, however, will always be the same, the verdict that we have to pass on ourselves: we are bad, we have been bad; and, I hate to add, we will go on being bad. There will always be murderers, tyrants, robbers, adulterers, plunderers, temple-thieves, traitors."

Posted by Ghost of a flea at March 12, 2013 08:57 AM