previous next

That caution should be used, as to personal familiarity.

He who frequently mingles with others, either in conversation or at entertainments, or in any familiar way of living, must necessarily either become like his companions, or bring them over to his own way. For if a dead coal be applied to a live one, either the first will quench the last, or the last kindle the first. Since, then, the danger is so great, caution must be used in entering into these familiarities with the crowd. remembering that it is impossible [p. 2051] to touch a chimney-sweeper without being partaker of his soot. For what will you do if you have to discuss gladiators, horses, wrestlers, and, what is worse, men? "Such a one is good, another bad; this was well, that ill, done." Besides, what if any one should sneer, or ridicule, or be ill-natured? Are any of you prepared, like a harper, who, when he takes his harp and tries the strings, finds out which notes are discordant, and knows how to put the instrument in tune? Have any of you such a faculty as Socrates had, who in every conversation could bring his companions to his own purpose? Whence should you have it? You must therefore be carried along by the crowd. And why are they more powerful than you? Because they utter their corrupt discourses from sincere opinion, and you your good ones only from your lips. Hence they are without strength or life; and it is disgusting to hear your exhortations and your poor miserable virtue proclaimed up hill and down. Thus it is that the crowd gets the better of you; for sincere opinion is always strong, always invincible. Therefore before wise sentiments are fixed in you, and you have acquired some power of self-defence, I advise you to be cautious in popular intercourse; otherwise, if you have any impressions made on you in the schools, they will melt away daily like wax before the sun. Get away then, far from the sun, while you have these waxen opinions.

It is for this reason that the philosophers advise us [p. 2052] to leave our country; because habitual practices draw the mind aside and prevent the formation of new habits. We cannot bear that those who meet us should say, "Hey-day! such a one is turned philosopher, who was formerly thus and so." Thus physicians send patients with lingering distempers to another place and another air; and they do right. Do you too import other manners instead of those you carry out. Fix your opinions, and exercise yourself in them. No; but you go hence to the theatre, to the gladiators, to the walks, to the circus; then hither again, then back again,- just the same persons all the while ! No good habit, no criticism, no animadversion upon ourselves. No observation what use we make of the appearances presented to our minds, - whether it be conformable, or contrary to Nature; whether we interpret them rightly or wrongly. Can I say to the inevitable that it is nothing to me? If this be not yet your case, flee from your former habits; flee from the crowd if you would ever begin to be anything. [p. 2053]

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus English (George Long, 1890)
load focus Greek (1916)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: