Tuesday, May 17, 2011

a four-legged perversity...

James Vila Blake was a poet, hymn writer, and Unitarian Minister in Quincy and Chicago Illinois. This from his essay, "Of Constancy" from an 1890 issue of the "Unitarian Review"

"It is a saying of Seneca, "This is grand, to act always like the same man." This means not that we ought never to change. For then is cut off growth, which is the grandest of all facts in things or creatures. Still less it teaches stubbornness or perversity, sticking and fixed like a humorsome mule. For it is a high trait to change instantly when we see reason; yes, and easily to see reason, too, when it is set before us. Neither does this saying of Seneca censure differences of mood. For no man can be the same at all moments, unless he be such a lump of clay as never feels. I find in Burton's Anatomy another saying of Seneca touching a saying of Epicurus,— " Seneca calls that of Epicurus, magnificam voeem, an heroical speech, 'A fool still begins to live,' and accounts it a filthy lightness in men, every day to lay new foundations of their life." This shows well enough what Seneca means by that other saying of his, his own words, that it is grand "to act always like the same man,"— not that a man shall not change if he will grow; nor stick in a posture, like a four-legged perversity that knows no reason ; nor ever have any mind, as if but modelled in clay; but that he is to have a steadiness in his motion, by which every day he gets along somewhat in one direction, and this the direction of the day before, and likewise a good direction, like a building always going one way from a good foundation, and that way upward."


1 comment:

David G. Markham said...

James Vila Blake seems a little tortured to me to try to explain Seneca's statement about constancy of character and sense of self.

I think what Seneca was getting at is genuineness. When a person is true to him/herself, there is a centeredness, a core of self that is aligned with the divine which is essential and based on truth it does not change but is stable, centered, and provides the foundation for a life of integrity and singleness that is holy. Otherwise we flail around push and pulled by circumstances without and within which make us feel like victims of our own lives rather than the co-creators of them.

Most of our lives we portray a facade of what we think those we want to love us want to see rather than expose who we really are. The facade is chameleon like and can change with the circumstance while the core continues hidden from others and sadly often even from ourselves.