Grave Offenses, And Little Thanks

In a letter to Titinius Capito, the Roman official and career lawyer Pliny discusses the idea of writing a book of history.  Of particular concern to him was the choice of topic:  he was uncertain whether he should treat an ancient or a modern subject.  Valid arguments existed for both options.  An older subject might allow for a more considered perspective, far removed from the passions of immediate memory; whereas the treatment of a current subject might inflame unreasonable emotions in his readers.  Pliny has serious doubts about choosing a subject that might be within the living memory of his readers.  He summarizes his feelings with this sentence:

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Generosity Should Be Bestowed With Care

There is a scene in the movie The Wild Bunch (1969) where Ernest Borgnine and William Holden are discussing the making of promises.  Holden says, “We gave our word.”  Borgnine angrily responds, “That ain’t what counts.  It’s who you give it to!”

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The Man Of Action Should Not Expect Gratitude From Others

We have recently discussed ways of handling a lack of appreciation.  A certain independence of spirit–a soaring greatness of soul–is one of the main ways we can limit our expectations of appreciation from others.  Consider again, if you need to, the verses of Ibn Munir on this subject, which capture perfectly this spiritual independence.  As I see it, no more powerful statement of this ethic has ever been put into poetic form.

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