Magazine article The Spectator

Seneca on Sir Alex Ferguson

Magazine article The Spectator

Seneca on Sir Alex Ferguson

Article excerpt

Sir Alex Ferguson is going to be in big trouble in retirement: how will he control or defuse his famous rages, now that they have no outlet?

Ancients took a mixed view of the emotion. 'Anger' is the first word of Western literature - the anger of Achilles, with which Homer's Iliad starts. Even though it results in the death of his dearest friend Patroclus, Achilles admits that there is pleasure in it, 'sweeter than the dripping of honey'. The Stoics, regarding control of the emotions as the key to virtue, were entirely hostile to it. Seneca (4 BCAD 65) paints a fine picture of the angry man: devoid of selfcontrol, forgetful of decency, unmindful of loyalties, deaf to reason and advice, excited by trivialities, incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, his whole face crimson with blood, lips quivering, teeth clenched, joints cracking. Even righteous indignation is disallowed.

Plutarch ( AD 46-120) added useful tips. The angry man, he suggests, should have a mirror handy, to see how ridiculous he looks. He should learn the pipe and play himself a soothing tune when he boils over. …

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