What things we ought to despise, and what things we ought to value.THE difficulties of all men are about external things, their helplessness is about externals. What shall I do, how will it be, how will it turn out, will this happen, will that? All these are the words of those who are turning themselves to things which are not within the power of the will. For who says, How shall I not assent to that which is false? how shall I not turn away from the truth? If a man be of such a good disposition as to be anxious about these things, I will remind him of this, Why are you anxious? The thing is in your own power: be assured: do not be precipitate in assenting before you apply the natural rule. On the other side, if a man is anxious (uneasy) about desire, lest it fail in its purpose and miss its end, and with respect to the avoidance of things, lest he should fall into that which he would avoid, I will first kiss (love) him, because he throws away the things about which others are in a flutter (others desire) and their fears, and employs his thoughts about his own affairs and his own condition. Then I shall say to him, if you do not choose to desire that which you will fail to obtain nor to attempt to avoid that into which you will fall, desire nothing which belongs to (which is in the power of) others, nor try to avoid any of the things which are not in your power. If you do not observe this rule, you must of necessity fail in your desires and fall into that which you would avoid. What is the difficulty here? where is there room for the words, How will it be? and How will it turn out? and will this happen or that? Now is not that which will happen independent of the will? Yes. And the nature of good and of evil is it not in the things which are within the power of the will? Yes. Is it in your power then to treat according to nature every thing which happens? Can any person hinder you? No man. No longer then say to me, How will it be? For however it may be, you will dispose of it well,1 and the result to you will be a fortunate one. What would Hercules have been if he said, How shall a great lion not appear to me, or a great boar, or savage men? And what do you care for that? If a great boar appear, you will fight a greater fight: if bad men appear, you will relieve the earth of the bad. Suppose then that I lose my life in this way. You will die a good man, doing a noble act. For since we must certainly die, of necessity a man must be found doing something, either following the employment of a husbandman, or digging, or trading, or serving in a consulship or suffering from indigestion or from diarrhoea. What then do you wish to be doing when you are found by death? I for my part would wish to be found doing something which belongs to a man, beneficent, suitable to the general interest, noble. But if I cannot be found doing things so great, I would be found doing at least that which I cannot be hindered from doing, that which is permitted me to do, correcting myself, cultivating the faculty which makes use of appearances, labouring at freedom from the affects (labouring at tranquillity of mind), rendering to the relations of life their due; if I succeed so far, also (I would be found) touching on (advancing to) the third topic (or head) safety in the forming judgments about things.2 If death surprises me when I am busy about these things, it is enough for me if I can stretch out my hands to God and say: The means which I have received from thee for seeing thy administration (of the world) and following it, I have not neglected: I have not dishonoured thee by my acts: see how I have used my perceptions, see how I have used my preconceptions: have I ever blamed thee? have I been discontented with any thing that happens, or wished it to be otherwise? have I wished to transgress the (established) relations (of things)? That thou hast given me life, I thank thee for what thou hast given: so long as I have used the things which are thine I am content; take them back and place them wherever thou mayest choose; for thine were all things, thou gayest them to me3—Is it not enough to depart in this state of mind, and what life is better and more becoming than that of a man who is in this state of mind? and what end is more happy?4 But that this may be done (that such a declaration may be made), a man must receive (bear) no small things, nor are the things small which he must lose (go without). You cannot both wish to be a consul and to have these things (the power of making such a dying speech), and to be eager to have lands, and these things also; and to be solicitous about slaves and about yourself. But if you wish for any thing which belongs to another, that which is your own is lost. This is the nature of the thing: nothing is given or had for nothing.5 And where is the wonder? If you wish to be a consul, you must keep awake, run about, kiss hands, waste yourself with exhaustion at other men's doors, say and do many things unworthy of a free man, send gifts to many, daily presents to some. And what is the thing that is got? Twelve bundles of rods (the consular fasces), to sit three or four times on the tribunal, to exhibit the games in the Circus and to give suppers in small baskets.6 Or, if you do not agree about this, let some one show me what there is besides these things. In order then to secure freedom from passions (ἀπαφείας), tranquillity, to sleep well when you do sleep, to be really awake when you are awake, to fear nothing, to be anxious about nothing, will you spend nothing and give no labour? But if any thing belonging to you be lost while you are thus busied, or be wasted badly, or another obtains what you ought to have obtained, will you immediately be vexed at what has happened? Will you not take into the account on the other side what you receive and for what, how much for how much? Do you expect to have for nothing things so great? And how can you? One work (thing) has no community with another. You cannot have both external things after bestowing care on them and your own ruling faculty:7 but if you would have those, give up this. If you do not, you will have neither this nor that, while you are drawn in different ways to both.8 The oil will be spilled, the household vessels will perish: (that may be), but I shall be free from passions (tranquil).—There will be a fire when I am not present, and the books will be destroyed: but I shall treat appearances according to nature—Well; but I shall have nothing to eat. If I am so unlucky, death is a harbour; and death is the harbour for all; this is the place of refuge; and for this reason not one of the things in life is difficult: as soon as you choose, you are out of the house, and are smoked no more.9 Why then are you anxious, why do you lose your sleep, why do you not straightway, after considering wherein your good is and your evil, say, Both of them are in my power? Neither can any man deprive me of the good, nor involve me in the bad against my will. Why do I not throw myself down and snore? for all that I have is safe. As to the things which belong to others, he will look to them who gets them, as they may be given by him who has the power.10 Who am I who wish to have them in this way or in that? is a power of selecting them given to me? has any person made me the dispenser of them? Those things are enough for me over which I have power: I ought to manage them as well as I can: and all the rest, as the master of them (God) may choose. When a man has these things before his eyes, does he keep awake and turn hither and thither? What would he have, or what does he regret, Patroclus or Antilochus or Menelaus?11 For when did he suppose that any of his friends was immortal, and when had he not before his eyes that on the morrow or the day after he or his friend must die? Yes, he says, but I thought that he would survive me and bring up my son.—You were a fool for that reason, and you were thinking of what was uncertain. Why then do you not blame yourself, and sit crying like girls?—But he used to set my food before me. —Because he was alive, you fool, but now he cannot: but Automedon12 will set it before you, and if Automedon also dies, you will find another. But if the pot, in which your meat was cooked, should be broken, must you die of hunger, because you have not the pot which you are accustomed to? Do you not send and buy a new pot He says:
No greater ill than this could fall on me. (Iliad xix. 321.)Why is this your ill? Do you then instead of removing it blame your mother (Thetis) for not foretelling it to you that you might continue grieving from that time? What do you think? do you not suppose that Homer wrote this that we may learn that those of noblest birth, the strongest and the richest, the most handsome, when they have not the opinions which they ought to have, are not prevented from being most wretched and unfortunate?