Translation I: The Tutor or “Choose Yourself A Cato”

This is a “Translation” post used to illustrate and complement Epic entries. For a full list of the Epic, click here. To start at the beginning, click here.

The Tutor

Ancient philosophers have long espoused the virtues of living a good life. The highest aim. Stoicism, a school of philosophy from the 3rd century BCE, has long been idealized as a practical philosophy and way of being. As a path to living the good life, Stoics were no nonsense in their approach, focusing on the importance of actions and wasting no more time on the actions of others. This path to the good life was and is not easy, stoicism illuminates a responsibility you have for your own actions.

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them…”

But how can we follow this advice? How do I choose my actions? How do I know if my actions are good, if my actions are right?

Seneca, a follower of Stoic philosophy, presents us with numerous lessons and tenets of stoic philosophy through his collection of letters titled Letters from a Stoic. In these letters, Seneca presents us with a strategy to guide our actions and decisions. In his words, one should “Choose Yourself A Cato”. 

“Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model. There is a need, in my view, for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against you won’t make the crooked straight.”

Immediately, choosing a mentor and having a standard to measure yourself against can be the impetus to choosing good actions when confronted with the chaos of the modern world. Aiming for the good and aligning your actions with the judgment of your “imaginary tutor” can give you a bearing to strive towards and a metric to measure yourself and your actions against.

The question is then who will you choose? What sages or figures can you surround yourself with? How can you best “Choose Yourself A Cato”? Who can you choose to help you on this path you have set out on?

The path we are all on. Choose yourself a tutor, a mentor to guide you.
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The Tutor

Who was the man? What had he said to the boy?

The boy walked down the path, leaving the trees behind. An emerging sunlight still illuminated the tops of the trees ahead. Warm colors of red, yellow, and orange transformed a green canopy into a golden ceiling.

The boy marveled at the sharp contrast the image before him made compared to the dull grey of his life before.

He thought back to the world he left, to the life he left. A life with no color and no sound.

Memories flooded back. Memories empty of joy or sorrow.

He shook his head and he emerged back on the mountain path.

“The man in the woods – why had his words moved me so?” The boy thought to himself. “The ideal the man spoke of, how shall I reach it?”

On the path, the boy noticed a figure wrapped in aged rags.

As he drew closer, the man stood up and the boy recognized him; the tutor.

Before he could speak the man held up his hand. He pointed down the path to the mountains beyond and he spoke again of an ideal.

The boy was ashamed of his doubt and drew closer to the man.

Do not doubt yourself” he said. “What you seek is down this path. Though you cannot see it’s end, you draw nearer with each step.”

But me, a knight?” the boy sighed.

Yes, you have died once. You are now tasked to live purposefully. The ideal you seek must be worked for. It requires dedication and sacrifice.”

But how can I do this? I do not know the way”

I shall guide you. I am always watching. Think of me in moments of doubt and I shall appear.”

The tutor stepped back from the boy and once again pointed down the mountain path.

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