"But give me directions." Why should I give you directions? has not Zeus given you directions? Has he not given to you what is your own free from hindrance and free from impediment, and what is not your own subject to hindrance and impediment? What directions then, what kind of orders did you bring when you came from him? Keep by every means what is your own; do not desire what belongs to others. Fidelity is your own, virtuous shame is your own; who then can take these things from you? who else than yourself will hinder you from using them? But how do you act? when you seek what is not your own, you lose that which is your own. Having such promptings and commands from Zeus, what kind do you still ask from me? Am I more powerful than he, am I more worthy of confidence? But if you observe these, do you want any others besides? "Well, but he has not given these orders" you will say. Produce your precognitions, produce the proofs of philosophers, produce what you have often heard, and produce what you have said yourself, produce what you have read, produce what you have meditated on (and you will then see that all these things are from God). How long, then, is it fit to observe these precepts from God, and not to break up the play? As long as the play is continued with propriety. In the Saturnalia a king is chosen by lot, for it has been the custom to play at this game. The king commands: "Do you drink," "Do you mix the wine," "Do you sing," "Do you go," "Do you come." I obey that the game may be broken up through me. But if he says, "Think that you are in evil plight": I answer, "I do not think so"; and who compel me to think so? Further, we agreed to play Agamemnon and Achilles. He who is appointed to play Agamemnon says to me, "Go to Achilles and tear from him Briseis." I go. He says, "Come," and I come.
For as we behave in the matter of hypothetical arguments, so ought we to do in life. "Suppose it to be night." I suppose that it is night. "Well then; is it day?" No, for I admitted the hypothesis that it was night. "Suppose that you think that it is night?" Suppose that I do. "But also think that it is night." That is not consistent with the hypothesis. So in this case also: "Suppose that you are unfortunate." Well, suppose so. "Are you then unhappy?" Yes. "Well, then, are you troubled with an unfavourable demon?" Yes. "But think also that you are in misery." This is not consistent with the hypothesis; and Another forbids me to think so.
How long then must we obey such orders? As long as it is profitable; and this means as long as I maintain that which is becoming and consistent. Further, some men are sour and of bad temper, and they say, "I cannot sup with this man to be obliged to hear him telling daily how he fought in Mysia: 'I told you, brother, how I ascended the hill: then I began to be besieged again.'" But another says, "I prefer to get my supper and to hear him talk as much as he likes." And do you compare these estimates: only do nothing in a depressed mood, nor as one afflicted, nor as thinking that you are in misery, for no man compels you to that. Has it smoked in the chamber? If the smoke is moderate, I will stay; if it is excessive, I go out: for you must always remember this and hold it fast, that the door is open. Well, but you say to me, "Do not live in Nicopolis." I will not live there. "Nor in Athens." I will not live in Athens. "Nor in Rome." I will not live in Rome. "Live in Gyarus." I will live in Gyarus, but it seems like a great smoke to live in Gyarus; and I depart to the place where no man will hinder me from living, for that dwelling-place is open to all; and as to the last garment, that is the poor body, no one has any power over me beyond this. This was the reason why Demetrius said to Nero, "You threaten me with death, but nature threatens you." If I set my admiration on the poor body, I have given myself up to be a slave: if on my little possessions, I also make myself a slave: for I immediately make it plain with what I may be caught; as if the snake draws in his head, I tell you to strike that part of him which he guards; and do you he assured that whatever part you choose to guard, that part your master will attack. Remembering this, whom will you still flatter or fear?
"But I should like to sit where the Senators sit." Do you see that you are putting yourself in straits, you are squeezing yourself. "How then shall I see well in any other way in the amphitheatre?" Man, do not be a spectator at all; and you will not be squeezed. Why do you give yourself trouble? Or wait a little, and when the spectacle is over, seat yourself in the place reserved for the Senators and sun yourself. For remember this general truth, that it is we who squeeze ourselves, who put ourselves in straits; that is, our opinions squeeze us and put us in straits. For what is it to be reviled? Stand by a stone and revile it; and what will you gain? If, then, a man listens like a stone, what profit is there to the reviler? But if the reviler has as a stepping-stone the weakness of him who is reviled, then he accomplishes something. "Strip him." What do you mean by "him"? Lay hold of his garment, strip it off. "I have insulted you." Much good may it do you.
This was the practice of Socrates: this was the reason why he always had one face. But we choose to practice and study anything rather than the means by which we shall be unimpeded and free. You say, "Philosophers talk paradoxes." But are there no paradoxes in the other arts? and what is more paradoxical than to puncture a man's eye in order that he may see? If any one said this to a man ignorant of the surgical art, would he not ridicule the speaker? Where is the wonder then if in philosophy also many things which are true appear paradoxical to the inexperienced?