I shall never be ashamed of citing a bad author if the line is good. – Seneca
What does that mean?
This is a variant translation of a longer quote, which talks about being the bearer of bad news, and his willingness to do so, in a good cause. The example used was telling sailors about to leave of an approaching storm.
This quote is an interesting twist on the longer version of the quote. None the less, it poses an interesting question. How bad would an author have to be before you would refuse to cite them, even if their words applied?
Was Nero too brutal and bloody for you to ever quote him? What about Hitler? Is there anyone who you would write off because you considered them to be too bad of a person? That is an interesting thought, isn’t it?
What if the ‘bad’ used wasn’t modifying the character of the author, but their quality of writing? Is there anyone who has writing so bad that you would not quote them under any circumstances? Can you explain why?
Why is valuing wisdom important?
There are many people who have said brilliant things. But some of them were jerks, or worse. But does that invalidate their wisdom? True, it could twist their interpretation of events or how they analyze events. It could cloud their analysis or how they responded to what life offered them.
But if someone does something you don’t like, are they suddenly completely without merit? Even crazy people have a sane idea every once in a while. Yet some still insist on a purity test before they will consider an idea, instead of judging the idea on what merit it might have.
To me, such tests or requirements are silly at best and quite harmful when taken too far. The ancient Greek philosophers have done which you might find offensive or unpleasant. Does that mean their words have no merit?
What about people with whom you have philosophical or other kinds of disagreements? Are they to be shunned or ignored? How will that help you with your growth, personally or professionally? Or will you miss something bright, or even brilliant, because of your bias or dislike?
Where can I apply this in my life?
Please understand that I am not telling you that you have to believe as I do. Nor am I saying that every word by every person is of value. But just because you disagree with someone, please do not write them off or banish them from your thoughts. They may know something from which you could learn.
If you are in a metaphorical war or have a strong disagreement with someone else, can you explain to me why you wouldn’t want to know how they think, what they value, and how they plan to do things? In the long push of capitalists against communists, much was learned by reading the communists books.
But does the conflict between capitalism and communism mean that there are no valid points in the philosophy of either? China seems to be trying to find a third way, partly between the two. China seems to be finding wisdom in both. It will be interesting to see how that turns out, over time.
Who or what have you blocked out of your life? What might you be able to learn from them? If there is nothing to learn, then there is no need to block them out of your life, just ignore them, right? However, if there is something you can learn, it might just be worth a little bit of your time.
If you wanted to find out more about free will in your life, you could decide to simply read books by one side of the argument, and validate your position. Or you could learn a lot more by reading both sides of the argument, and engaging your brain. Argue it yourself, and see if you still agree with your position.
Again, don’t get me wrong. Not every thought has equal value. There are some brilliant thoughts out there, and some great things being discussed. But there is also a lot of drivel as well. We will each have to find what is of value to us in the moment, and use it as best we can.
We all will change with time, and we may not yet recognize that something is without merit. Or we may dismiss something which is wise because we do not yet understand. Time will help us find out what is good, and what is not. But don’t wait for enlightenment to find you, seek it out.
There are plenty of things to consider in life. Many words of wisdom and thoughts which apply as well today as they did in ancient Greece or China. Some have fallen out of favor but still have value. Others never were worth much, but those who spoke them were popular or have become popular.
Such is life. Try to avoid judging the line based solely on the author. Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional nut. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Have I made my point? I just hope I haven’t moved myself into the ‘bad author’ category. 8)
From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at : en.wikiquote.org/Seneca…#On_Tranquility_of_the_Mind – third entry
Photo by D.C.Atty
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