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Slow train coming

  The space is pervaded with green, with the chirping of birds and the sweet smell of pollen. We are in the countryside of Dordogne, and it would be difficult for anyone to find a more idyllic setting. In general, I try not to read the news, especially here, but whenever I do, that idyllic image is replaced by another one: the slow train, picking up speed downhill. The machine engineers are incompetent and instead of stopping it and repairing the faults with care, they keep on loading it with coal. Its lights are on in the darkness; they illuminate only the small patch in front, so the passengers could see the end, but only in a fashion.  Why are we in a such a hurry to destroy our civilisation? Do we have so much that we are bored with it? There was this boredom in the air before the epidemic in 2020. I had the feeling that people, especially the young ones, were waiting eagerly for something to happen. Anything. Just not that day after day boredom. They were trying to shake it off –

In the Spur of the Moment

This is as if Seneca wrote it for us, the dharma people, visiting Buddhist teachings. It captures the moment perfectly!

'Some come not to learn but just to hear him, in the same way as we we’re drawn to a theatre, for the sake of entertainment. You’ll find that a large proportion of the philosopher’s audience is made up of this element, which regards his lecture-hall as a place of lodging for periods of leisure. They’re not concerned to rid themselves of any faults there, but simply to enjoy the full pleasure the ear has to offer. ... Some of them are stirred by the noble sentiments they hear; their faces and spirits light up and they enter into the emotion of the speaker, going into a transport just like the eunuch priests who work themselves into a frenzy, to order, at the sound of a Phrygian flute. They are captivated and aroused not by a din of empty words, but by the splendour of the actual content of the speaker’s words – any expression of bold or spirited defiance of death or fortune making you keen to translate what you’ve heard into action straight away. They are deeply affected by the words and become the persons they are told to be – or would if the impression on their minds were to last, if this magnificent enthusiasm were not immediately intercepted by that discourager of noble conduct, the crowd: very few succeed in getting home in the same frame of mind.'

Seneca, Letters to Lucullus, Letter CVIII.


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