Concerning those who are annoyed at being pitied.It vexes me, say you, to be pitied. Is this your affair, then, or theirs who pity you? And further, how is it in your power to prevent it? " It is, if I show them that I do not need pity." But are you now in such a condition as not to need pity, or are you not? "I think I am. But these people do not pity me for what, if anything, would deserve pity, my faults; but for poverty, and want of power, and sicknesses, and deaths, and other things of that kind." Are you, then, prepared to convince the world that none of these things is in reality an evil; but that it is possible for a person to be happy, even when he is poor, and without honors and power? Or are you prepared to put on the appearance of being rich and [p. 2169] powerful? The last of these is the part of an arrogant, silly, worthless fellow. Observe, too, by what means this fiction must be carried on. You must hire some poor slaves, and get possessed of a few little pieces of plate, and often show them in public; and though they are the same, endeavor to conceal that they are the same; you must have gay clothes and other finery, and make a show of being honored by your great people; and endeavor to sup with them, or be thought to sup with them; and use some vile arts with your person, to make it appear handsomer and genteeler than it really is. All this you must contrive, if you would take the second way not to be pitied. And the first is impracticable as well as tedious, to undertake the very thing that Zeus himself could not do, - to convince all mankind what things are really good and evil. Is this granted you? The only thing granted you is to convince yourself; and you have not yet done that; and yet do you undertake to convince others? Why, who has lived so long with you as you have with yourself? Who is so likely to have faith in you, in order to be convinced by you, as yourself? Who is more truly a well-wisher or a friend to you than yourself? How is it, then, that you have not yet convinced yourself? Should you not now revolve these things? What you were studying was this: to learn to be exempt from grief, perturbation, and meanness, and to be free. Have you not heard, then, that the only way [p. 2170] that leads to this is to give up what is beyond the control of will; to withdraw from it, and confess that it belongs to others? To what order of things belongs another's opinion about you? "Things uncontrollable by will." Is it nothing then to you? " Nothing." While you are still piqued and disturbed about it, then, do you consider that you are convinced concerning good and evil? Letting others alone, then, why will you not be your own scholar and teacher? Let others look to it, whether it be for their advantage to think and act contrary to nature; but no one is nearer to me than myself. What means this? I have heard the reasonings of philosophers, and assented to them; yet, in fact, I am not the more relieved. Am I so stupid? And yet, in other things to which I had an inclination, I was not found very stupid; but I quickly learned grammar and the exercises of the palaestra, and geometry, and the solution of syllogisms. Has not reason, then, convinced me? And yet there is no one of the other things that I so much approved or liked from the very first. And now I read concerning these subjects, I hear discourses upon them, I write about them, and I have not yet found any principle more sure then this. What, then, do I need? Is not this the difficulty, that the contrary principles are not removed out of my mind? Is it not that I have not strengthened these opinions by exercise, nor practised them in action; but, like arms [p. 2171] thrown aside, they are grown rusty, and do not suit me? Yet neither in the palaestra, nor writing, nor reading, nor solving syllogisms, am I contented with merely learning; but I apply in every way the forms of arguments which are presented to me, and I invent others; and the same of convertible propositions. But the necessary principles by which I might become exempted from fear, grief, and passion, and be unrestrained and free, I do not exercise, nor bestow on them the proper care. And then I trouble myself what others will say of me; whether I shall appear to them worthy of regard; whether I shall appear happy. Will you not see, foolish man, what you can say of yourself; what sort of person you appear to yourself in your opinions, in your desires, in your aversions, in your pursuits, in your preparation, in your intention, in the other proper works of a man? But instead of that, do you trouble yourself whether others pity you? "Very true. But I am pitied without reason." Then are you not pained by this? And is not he who is in pain to be pitied? " Yes." How, then, are you pitied without reason? For you render yourself worthy of pity by what you suffer upon being pitied. What says Antisthenes, then? Have you never heard?- " It is kingly, O Cyrus, to do well and to be ill spoken of." My head is well, and all around me think it aches. What is that to me? I am free from a fever; and they compassionate me as if I had [p. 2172] one. "Poor soul, what a long while have you had this fever! " I say, too, with a dismal countenance, Ay, indeed, it is now a long time that I have been ill. "What can be the consequence, then? " What pleases God. And at the same time I secretly laugh at those who pity me. What forbids, then, but that the same may be done in the other case? I am poor, but I have right principles concerning poverty. What is it to me, then, if people pity me for my poverty? I am not in power and others are; but I have such opinions as I ought to have concerning power and the want of power. Let them see to it who pity me. I am neither hungry, nor thirsty, nor cold. But because they are hungry and thirsty, they suppose me to be so too. What can I do for them? Am I to go about making proclamation, and saying, Do not deceive yourselves, good people, I am very well; I care for neither poverty, nor want of power, nor anything else but right principles? These I possess unrestrained, and care for nothing further. But what trifling is this! How have I right principles when I am not contented to be what I am; but am in agony as to how I shall appear? "But others will get more, and be preferred to me." Well, what is more reasonable than that they who take pains for anything should get most in that particular direction in which they take pains? They have taken pains for power; you, for right principles. They, for riches; you, for a proper use of the phenomena of existence. [p. 2173] See whether they have the advantage of you in that for which you have taken pains, and which they neglect; if they judge better concerning the natural bounds and limits of things; if their desires are less often disappointed than yours, their aversions less often incurred; if they aim better in their intentions, in their purposes, in their pursuits; if they preserve a becoming behavior as men, as sons, as parents, and so on with the other relations of life. But if they are in power, and you not, why will you not speak the truth to yourself; that you do nothing for the sake of power, but that they do everything? It were very reasonable that he who carefully seeks anything should be less successful than he who neglects it! "No; but since I take care to have right principles, it is more reasonable that I should excel." Yes, in respect to what you take pains about, your principles. But give up to others the things in which they have taken more pains than you. Else it is just as if, because you have right principles, you should expect to aim an arrow better than an archer, or to forge better than a smith. In that case cease to take pains about principles, and apply yourself to those things which you wish to possess, and then begin crying, if you do not succeed; for you deserve to cry. But now you claim that you are engaged and absorbed in other things; and they say well that no man can be of two trades. One man, as soon as he rises and goes out, seeks to whom he may pay his compliments, whom he may [p. 2174] flatter, to whom he may send a present, how he may please the favorite; how, by doing mischief to one, he may oblige another. Whenever he prays, he prays for things like these; whenever he sacrifices, he sacrifices for things like these. To these he transfers the Pythagorean precept,- Let not the stealing god of Sleep surprise.
Where have I failed in point of flattery? What have I done, - anything like a free, brave-spirited man?1 If he should find anything of this sort, he rebukes and accuses himself. " What business had you to say that? For could you not have lied? Even the philosophers say there is no objection against telling a lie." But, on the other hand, if you have in reality been careful about nothing else but to make a right use of the phenomena of existence; then, as soon as you are up in the morning, consider what you need in order to be free from passion; what, to enjoy tranquillity? "In what do I consist,- merely in body, in estate, in reputation? None of these. What, then? I am a reasonable creature. What, then, is required of me? " Meditate upon your actions. Where have I failed in any requisite for prosperity? What have I done, either unfriendly or unsocial? What have I omitted that was necessary in these points? [p. 2175] Since there is so much difference, then, in your desires, your actions, your wishes, would you yet have an equal share with others in those things about which you have not taken pains, and they have? And do you wonder, after all, and are you out of humor, if they pity you? But they are not out of humor, if you pity them. Why? Because they are convinced that they are in possession of their proper good; but you are not convinced that you are. Hence you are not contented with your own condition, but desire theirs; whereas they are contented with theirs, and do not desire yours. For if you were really convinced that it is you who are in possession of what is good, and that they are mistaken, you would not so much as think what they say about you.