On The Death Of Seneca

There is a preparatory plaster statue, very finely executed by Eduardo Barrón, on display at the Museo Nacional del Prado Museum in Madrid.  It is called Nero and Seneca, and it was completed in 1904.  Barrón never produced a final version in marble or bronze; and although it remains a preliminary study, it is a powerfully evocative depiction of two strong personalities.  Seneca points at a passage in an unrolled book before him, and is leaning towards Nero, evidently to make some pedagogic point.  The young Nero, whom Seneca had the misfortune to tutor, remains slouched in his chair, a clenched fist pressed against his temple in sullen opposition to the lesson his teacher is attempting to expound.

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The Font Of Life And Leadership

How often do we really think about time, and our interactions with it?  We know that Augustine of Hippo, in his Confessions (XI.20), expended significant effort on the nature of time, and its effect on human affairs.  In his view it was not accurate to say, as we normally do, that the three “times” are past, present, and future.  The better way of understanding our perception of time, he says, is to observe that the three “varieties” of time co-existing in our souls are the following:

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The Monkey Atop The Ship’s Mast, And How To Deal With Him

A nineteenth-century volume of nautical lore provides the following story of a strange incident at sea.  In 1818 there was a ship—its name is not recorded by the tale’s author—on its homeward voyage from Jamaica to Whitehaven, England.  One of the passengers was a young mother with her infant child, who was only several weeks old.  One day, the ship’s captain saw something on the horizon, and offered his spyglass to the mother, so that she might for herself see what it was.  She wrapped her child in her shawl and placed it carefully on the seat where she had been sitting.

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Petrarch Counsels A Ruler On The Ends Of Power

Giacomo Bussolari was born to a poor family in Pavia, Italy around 1300.  A natural gift for oratory augmented the modest opportunities available to him; and he found in the Augustinian order a vehicle for the expression of his ambitions.  During the 1350s he was a leading figure in the city, even rising to command the city’s military during conflict with the Visconti in 1356.  Yet Fortune was to turn against him, as so often happens; by 1359 the Visconti had mounted a successful campaign against Pavia, and Bussolari was ignominiously deposed.

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Taming The Soul’s Turbulence

In our lives we often encounter people whose behavior seems to make no rational sense.  I am referring to people who do things that seem to be against their own self-interest:  those who say one thing, but do something else.  We ourselves can fall into this trap on occasion.  It is almost as if there exists some morbid consciousness in all of us, a voice calling out for us to exactly what we should not do.

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Virtue Is A Sentinel (Podcast)

The virtues have been a force promoting social cohesion and stability for thousands of years. As a society becomes more wealthy, it tends to neglect these virtues. The consequences are deeply destructive: loss of social cohesion, indiscipline, greed and moral corruption. History suggests that such societies become ripe for disorder, even collapse.

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On The Solitary Life

The scholar Petrarch once secured an audience with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who lived from 1316 to 1378.  His meeting with the emperor at Lombardy in 1354 is described in one of Petrarch’s luminous letters (Familiares XIX.3).  It was a charming custom of those days that kings and popes would occasionally seek out men of letters for the purpose of philosophical inquiry.  Perhaps kings preferred to talk with scholars because they were removed from the concerns of power, and could speak with a frankness that was lacking with the royal ministers and advisors.

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