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Plutarch's practicum for daily living
			(and doing better at it)

As Americans, we struggle daily with questions of ethics — what the ancients called moralia. As individuals, we can find answers in the words of thinkers whose wisdom transcends politics and time.

Born in Greece in A.D. 46, Plutarch was a biographer, an essayist, and a priest of Apollo at the Oracle of Delphi, appointed to speak for the gods in all manner of human questioning. He had a marked influence on some of the thinkers who have most influenced our modern thinking — most notably, Shakespeare and Emerson.

But what draws us still to the wise old Greek is his attention to, as he calls it, “the real business of life.” Plutarch gives us not oracles but useful advice, thoughtful counsel to gather round us as we go about the business of living. Here, some of his wise words:

  • Nature has fenced and barricaded in us nothing so much as the tongue,
    having put the teeth before it as a barrier.

  • Men teach us to speak, but the gods teach us to be silent.

  • Diogenes used to go round begging to the statues, and when people expressed their astonishment,
    said he was practicing how to bear refusals.

  • I began my cure of anger by noticing its effects in others.

  • If you take people as they are, as you would look upon barking dogs as only following their nature,
    you will be happier in the disposition you will then have.

  • It is the act of a madman to distress oneself over what is lost, and not to rejoice at what is left.

  • The wise make the past clearly present to them through memory.

  • The sensible person hopes for better things, but expects worse, and makes the most of either.

  • Though we cannot say that we suffer any other evil at the hands of those who praise themselves,
    we are anxious to get rid of them and breathe again.

  • Diogenes said that one who wished to do what was right ought to seek either a good friend or red-hot enemy.

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