I just finished this superb and surprisingly easy to read translation of Rufus. I have read Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus thoroughly - and just came upon Rufus. I ordered the book, and loved the translations, the formatting, and of course the wisdom of Rufus. I love his practical advice in life. Some of the lessons I have learned from him in the book (just a summary):
On how to become a philosopher:
"The person who is practicing to become a philosopher must seek to overcome himself so that he won't welcome pleasure and avoid pain, so that he won't love living and fear death, and so that, in the case of money, he won't honor receiving over giving."
On acquiring good things by pain
"In order for us to withstand more easily and eagerly the pains we would be suffering on account of virtue and noble character, it is useful to consider how much trouble those who pursue illicit love-affairs undergo because of their wicked passions, how much others put up with for the sake of gain, and again how many ills some suffer in pursuit of fame.
On controlling your desires:
"And yet, wouldn't everyone agree that it is much better to work to gain control over one's own desires than it is to work to gain possession of someone else's wife-- and for a person to train himself to want little instead of struggling to become wealthy? And instead of exerting effort to gain fame, shouldn't a person strive to overcome his thirst for it? Instead of searching for a way to damage a person whom he envies, shouldn't he contemplate how not to bear envy against anyone? Instead of being slavish to some so-called friends, who are actually insincere, shouldn't he make sacrifices to win true friends?"
On withstanding abuse from others:
"I could name many other men who were targets of abuse, some verbally attacked and others injured by physical attacks. They appear neither to have defended themselves against their attackers nor to have sought revenge. Instead, they very calmly bore the wrong committed by their attackers. Indeed, plotting how to bite back someone who bites and to return evil against the one who first did evil is characteristic of a beast, not a man. A beast is not able to comprehend that many of the wrongs done to people are done out of ignorance and a lack of understanding. A person who gains this comprehension immediately stops doing wrong."
On working and living with others:
"You will agree that human nature is very much like that of bees. A bee is not able to live alone: it perishes when isolated. Indeed, it is intent on performing the common task of members of its species-- to work and act together with other bees."
On having many children:
"I myself think that the man who lives with many loyal brothers is most worthy of emulation, and I think that the man who enjoys these blessings is most beloved by the gods. Therefore I think that we should try to leave our children brothers rather than possessions, in order to give them greater chances for blessings."
"Practice choosing food not for pleasure but for nourishment, not to please his palate but to strengthen his body. The throat was created as a passageway for food, not as an organ for pleasure... Plants take nourishment for the sake of their survival rather than for pleasure, and for humans as well, food is the medicine of life. Therefore, the goal of our eating should be staying alive rather than having pleasure-- at least if we wish to follow the sound advice of Socrates, who said that many men live to eat, but that he ate to live."
"To summarize the whole subject of food, I say that the goal of eating is to bring about both health and strength. Consequently, one should eat only inexpensive foods and should be concerned with decency and appropriate moderation and, most of all, with restrained and studious behavior."
"One should seek protection for the body that is modest, not expensive and excessive. One should use clothing and footwear in the same way as one uses armor: to defend the body, not to show off. The strongest weapons and those most able to keep their user safe are the best, not those that attract attention because of their sheen. Likewise, the clothing and footwear that provide the most protection for the body, not those that can attract the gaze of foolish people, are best."
On bearing the cold:
"It is a mistake to bundle up the body in a lot of clothes or envelope it in shawls or wrap up hands and feet in felt or heavy cloth-- unless, that is, one is ill It is a mistake for peoplee to dress so that they never experience cold and heat. To the contrary, they should be somewhat cold in winter, get out in the sun in summer, and stay in the shade very little.
"Since we build houses to protect ourselves from the elements, these houses, too, I think should be built to provide only what is needed: to keep out cold and excessive heat, and to protect those who needed to be protected from the wind. Our dwelling, in other words, should provide us the protection we could expect from a cave-- one big enough for ourselves and our stores of food."
"Why are there courtyards surrounded by colonnades? Why are there paints of different colors? Why are there gilded ceilings? Why the great outlays for stones, some used to pave the earth, some laid into walls, and some brought from very far away at very great expense? Aren't all these things excessive and unnecessary? One can, after all, not only live but flourish without them. Doesn't acquiring them involve both a lot of trouble and the expenditure of a lot of money-- money, one should add, that could be used to help many people both publicly and privately?"
"Isn't it more praiseworthy to help a lot of people than to live expensively? Isn't spending money on people much more notable than spending it on wood and stones? Isn't it much more worthwhile to have a lot of friends (as a result of doing good deeds cheerfully) than to have a big house? What benefits from having a big and beautiful house could match those that could be derived from using one's possession to help one's city and its citizens?"
On furnishing a home:
"On the whole, we can judge whether various household furnishings are good or bad by determining what it takes to acquire them, use them, and keep them safe. Things that are difficult to acquire, hard to use, or difficult to guard are inferior; things that are easy to acquire, are a pleasure to use and are easily guarded are superior."
On living in luxury:
"I myself would choose to be sick rather than to live in luxury. Being sick harms the body only; living in luxury harms both soul and body, by making the body weak and powerless and the soul undisciplined and cowardly. Surely luxurious living fosters injustice because it also fosters greed. A person who lives extravagantly cannot help but spend a lot and therefore cannot want to spend little. Furthermore, because he wants many things, he can't refrain from trying to acquire them, and when he sets out to acquire them, he can't help grabbing for too much and being unjust. No one can acquire many things without being unjust."
On living well:
"It is not possible to live well today unless you treat it as your last day."
"It is the height of shamelessness to think about how weak our bodies are when enduring pain, but to forget how weak we are when experiencing pleasure."
"Kings should perish who make a habit of justifying their actions to their subjects by saying "I have the power" rather than "It is my duty."
"We will hold that one man and one man only is truly wealthy--he who learns to want nothing in every circumstance."
On hard work:
"If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures; if you do something shameful in pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures."
On training the mind:
"To let one's mind go lax is, in effect, to lose it."
On encouraging others:
"When you want to encourage someone who is tired and has given up, tell them: "Why do you stand there? What are you looking for? Do you expect the god himself to come and speak to you? Cut out the dead part of your soul, and you will recognize the god."
Overall a 5 stars- order this book right now.