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That some advantage may be gained from every outward circumstance.

In considering sensible phenomena, almost all persons admit good and evil to lie in ourselves and not in externals. No one says it is good to be day, evil to be night, and the greatest evil that three should be four; but what? That knowledge is good and error evil. Even in connection with falsehood itself there may be one good thing, -the knowledge that it is falsehood. Thus, then, should it be in life also. " Health is a good; sickness an evil." No, sir. But what? A right use of health is a good; a wrong one, an evil. So that, in truth, it is possible to be a gainer even by sickness. And is it not possible by death too; by mutilation? Do you think Menaeceus1 an inconsiderable gainer by death? "May whoever talks thus be such a gainer as he was !" Why, pray, sir, did not he preserve his patriotism, his magna- [p. 2058] nimity, his fidelity, his gallant spirit? And if he had lived on, would he not have lost all these? Would not cowardice, baseness, and hatred of his country, and a wretched love of life, have been his portion? Well, now; do not you think him a considerable gainer by dying? No; but I warrant you the father of Admetus was a great gainer by living on in so mean-spirited and wretched a way as he did! For did not he die at last? For Heaven's sake, cease to be thus deluded by externals. Cease to make yourselves slaves, first of things, and then, upon their account, of the men who have the power either to bestow or to take them away. Is there any advantage, then, to be gained from these men? From all; even from a reviler. What advantage does a wrestler gain from him with whom he exercises himself before the combat? The greatest. And just in the same manner I exercise myself with this man. He exercises me in patience, in gentleness, in meekness. I am to suppose, then, that I gain an advantage from him who exercises my neck, and puts my back and shoulders in order; so that the trainer may well bid me grapple him with both hands, and the heavier he is the better for me; and yet it is no advantage to me when I am exercised in gentleness of temper ! This is not to know how to gain an advantage from men. Is my neighbor a bad one? He is so to himself, but a good one to me; he exercises my good temper, my moderation. Is my father bad? To himself; but not to me. [p. 2059] "This is the rod of Hermes. Touch with it whatever you please, and it will become gold." No; but bring whatever you please, and I will turn it into good. Bring sickness, death, want, reproach, trial for life. All these, by the rod of Hermes, shall turn to advantage. "What will you make of death? " Why, what but an ornament to you; what but a means of your showing, by action, what that man is who knows and follows the will of Nature? "What will you make of sickness?" I will show its nature. I will make a good figure in it; I will be composed and happy; I will not beseech my physician, nor yet will I pray to die. What need you ask further? Whatever you give me, I will make it happy, fortunate, respectable, and eligible.

No, but, " take care not to be sick - it is an evil." Just as if one should say, "Take care that the semblance of three being four does not present itself to you. It is an evil." How an evil, man? If I think as I ought about it, what hurt will it any longer do me? Will it not rather be even an advantage to me? If then I think as I ought of poverty, of sickness, of political disorder, is not that enough for me? Why then must I any longer seek good or evil in externals?

But how is it? These truths are admitted here; but nobody carries them home, for immediately every one is in a state of war with his servant, his neighbors, with those who sneer and ridicule him. Many thanks to Lespius for proving every day that I know nothing. [p. 2060]


1 The son of Creon, who killed himself, after he had been informed by an oracle that his death would procure a victory to the Thebans.- C.

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