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Cave Turbam

“Do you ask me what you should regard as especially to be avoided? I say, crowds.”

Being the introvert I am, this answer from Seneca (letter 7) received from me a warm welcome and strong affirmation. However, I quickly learned that his reasoning was not formed from a fear of crowds or a feeling of discomfort one might experience in a room full of people. Instead, Seneca issued his warning against the crowd for the harm it imposes upon one’s soul.

In his experience, Seneca had never safely committed himself to a crowd without suffering some loss or injury to his character. He confesses that he never returns home with the same morals or character he had when first leaving and setting out into the public.

Numquam mores quos extuli refero . . .

Why? What happens?

Two things take place. First, those habits and virtues diligently and carefully formed are quickly disrupted (turbatur), and secondly, those habits and vices expunged, return.

Aliquid ex eo quod composui turbatur, aliquid ex iis quae fugavi redit.

But to what kind of crowd was Seneca referring? In particular, he was referencing the turba (crowd) gathered at the coliseum to watch gladiatorial games that ended in death for those competing.

Yet, let us not so quickly dismiss Seneca’s warning and go about our public business knowing that we are not engaging in the same sort of entertainments. The insight he offers is sound. He unfolds the way a crowd can weaken our virtue. The temptation to fit in and be accepted is real.

How long had Peter labored with our Lord to construct the very virtues he outlines in the first chapter of his second epistle, and how quickly did he attempt to disappear into the crowd when questioned on his knowledge of Jesus?

The turba need not be confined to the coliseum. It need not be restricted to people. What kinds of things, those things that influence and shape our character, do we surround ourselves with? What are the turbae in our lives that may be dis-turbing our souls?

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