On the usefulness of precepts

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”Still,” it is objected, “laws do not always make us do what we ought to do; and what else are laws than precepts mingled with threats?” Now first of all, the laws do not persuade just because they threaten; precepts, however, instead of coercing, correct men by pleading. Again, laws frighten one out of communicating crime, while precepts urge a man on to his duty.

— Seneca, Ep. XCIV.  On the value of advice

Importance of the mountain

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“The desert was created simply to be itself, not to be transformed by men into something else. So too the mountain and the sea. The desert is therefore the logical dwelling place for the man who seeks to be nothing but himself – that is to say, a creature solitary and poor and dependent on no one but God.”

— Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”

Enchirdion 45 for urbanites.

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“Does anyone bathe in a mighty little time? Don’t say that he does it ill, but in a mighty little time. Does anyone drink a great quantity of wine? Don’t say that he does ill, but that he drinks a great quantity. For, unless you perfectly understand the principle from which anyone acts, how should you know if he acts ill? Thus you will not run the hazard of assenting to any appearances but such as you fully comprehend.”

— Epictetus, Enchiridion 45.


“Does anyone signal for a turn in a mighty little time?  Don’t say the he does it badly, but just that he does it in a mighty little time.  Does anyone drive by weaving in and out of traffic?  Don’t say that he does it like an asshole, but that he drives by weaving in and out.  For unless you understand the principle from which anyone pilots a vehicle, how should you know if he does so badly?  Thus you will not run the hazard of assenting to any appearances but such as you fully comprehend.”

— Enchirdion 45 (with some artistic license)