CHAPTER 16

That we do not strive to use our opinions about good and evil
Where is the good? In the will. Where is the evil? In the will. Where is neither of them? In those things which are independent of the will. Well then? Does any one among us think of these lessons out of the schools? Does any one meditate by himself to give an answer to things as in the case of questions? Is it day? "Yes." Is it night? "No." Well, is the number of stars even? "I cannot say." When money is shown to you, have you studied to make the proper answer, that money is not a good thing? Have you practiced yourself in these answers, or only against sophisms? Why do you wonder then if in the cases which you have studied, in those you have improved; but in those which you have not studied, in those you remain the same? When the rhetorician knows that he has written well, that he has committed to memory what he has written, and brings an agreeable voice, why is he still anxious? Because he is not satisfied with having studied. What then does he want? To be praised by the audience? For the purpose, then, of being able to practice declamation, he has been disciplined: but with respect to praise and blame he has not been disciplined. For when did he hear from any one what praise is, what blame is, what the nature of each is, what kind of praise should be sought, or what kind of blame should be shunned? And when did he practice this discipline which follows these words? Why then do you still wonder if, in the matters which a man has learned, there he surpasses others, and in those in which he has not been disciplined, there he is the same with the many. So the lute player knows how to play, sings well, and has a fine dress, and yet he trembles when he enters on the stage; for these matters he understands, but he does not know what a crowd is, nor the shouts of a crowd, nor what ridicule is. Neither does he know what anxiety is, whether it is our work or the work of another, whether it is possible to stop it or not. For this reason, if he has been praised, he leaves the theatre puffed up, but if he has been ridiculed, the swollen bladder has been punctured and subsides.

This is the case also with ourselves. What do we admire? Externals. About what things are we busy? Externals. And have we any doubt then why we fear or why we are anxious? What, then, happens when we think the things which are coming on us to be evils? It is not in our power not to be afraid, it is not in our power not to be anxious. Then we say, "Lord God, how shall I not be anxious?" Fool, have you not hands, did not God make them for you, Sit down now and pray that your nose may not run. Wipe yourself rather and do not blame him. Well then, has he given to you nothing in the present case? Has he not given to you endurance? has he not given to you magnanimity? has he not given to you manliness? When you have such hands, do you look for one who shall wipe your you st nose? But we neither study these things nor care for them. Give me a man who cares how he shall do anything, not for the obtaining of a thing but who cares about his own energy. What man, when he is walking about, cares for his own energy? who, when he is deliberating, cares about his own deliberation, and not about obtaining that about which he deliberates? And if he succeeds, he is elated and says, "How well we have deliberated; did I not tell you, brother, that it is impossible, when we have thought about anything, that it should not turn out thus?" But if the thing should turn out otherwise, the wretched man is humbled; he knows not even what to say about what has taken place. Who among us for the sake of this matter has consulted a seer? Who among us as to his actions has not slept in indifference? Who? Give to me one that I may see the man whom I have long been looking for, who is truly noble and ingenuous, whether young or old; name him.

Why then are we still surprised, if we are well practiced in thinking about matters, but in our acts are low, without decency, worthless, cowardly, impatient of labour, altogether bad? For we do not care about things, nor do we study them. But if we had feared not death or banishment, but fear itself, we should have studied not to fall into those things which appear to us evils. Now in the school we are irritable and wordy; and if any little question arises about any of these things, we are able to examine them fully. But drag us to practice, and you will find us miserably shipwrecked. Let some disturbing appearance come on us, and you will know what we have been studying and in what we have been exercising ourselves. Consequently, through want of discipline, we are always adding something to the appearance and representing things to be greater than what they are. For instance as to myself, when I am on a voyage and look down on the deep sea, or look round on it and see no land, I am out of my mind and imagine that I must drink up all this water if I am wrecked, and it does not occur to me that three pints are enough. What then disturbs me? The sea? No, but my opinion. Again, when an earthquake shall happen, I imagine that the city is going to fall on me; is not one little stone enough to knock my brains out?

What then are the things which are heavy on us and disturb us? What else than opinions? What else than opinions lies heavy upon him who goes away and leaves his companions and friends and places and habits of life? Now little children, for instance, when they cry on the nurse leaving them for a short time, forget their sorrow if they receive a small cake. Do you choose then that we should compare you to little children? No, by Zeus, for I do not wish to be pacified by a small cake, but by right opinions. And what are these? Such as a man ought to study all day, and not to be affected by anything that is not his own, neither by companion nor place nor gymnasia, and not even by his own body, but to remember the law and to have it before his eyes. And what is the divine law? To keep a man's own, not to claim that which belongs to others, but to use what is given, and when it is not given, not to desire it; and when a thing is taken away, to give it up readily and immediately, and to be thankful for the time that a man has had the use of it, if you would not cry for your nurse and mamma. For what matter does it make by what thing a man is subdued, and on what he depends? In what respect are you better than he who cries for a girl, if you grieve for a little gymnasium, and little porticoes and young men and such places of amusement? Another comes and laments that he shall no longer drink the water of Dirce. Is the Marcian water worse than that of Dirce? "But I was used to the water of Dirce?" And you in turn will be used to the other. Then if you become attached to this also, cry for this too, and try to make a verse like the verse of Euripides,

The hot baths of Nero and the Marcian water.
See how tragedy is made when common things happen to silly men.

"When then shall I see Athens again and the Acropolis?" Wretch, are you not content with what you see daily? have you anything better or greater to see than the sun, the moon, the stars, the whole earth, the sea? But if indeed you comprehend him who administers the Whole, and carry him about in yourself, do you still desire small stones, and a beautiful rock? When, then, you are going to leave the sun itself and the moon, what will you do? will you sit and weep like children? Well, what have you been doing in the school? what did you hear, what did you learn? why did you write yourself a philosopher, when you might have written the truth; as, "I made certain introductions, and I read Chrysippus, but I did not even approach the door of a philosopher." For how should I possess anything of the kind which Socrates possessed, who died as he did, who lived as he did, or anything such as Diogenes possessed? Do you think that any one of such men wept or grieved, because he was not going to see a certain man, or a certain woman, nor to be in Athens or in Corinth, but, if it should so happen, in Susa or in Ecbatana? For if a man can quit the banquet when he chooses, and no longer amuse himself, does he still stay and complain, and does he not stay, as at any amusement, only so long as he is pleased? Such a man, I suppose, would endure perpetual exile or to be condemned to death. Will you not be weaned now, like children, and take more solid food, and not cry after mammas and nurses, which are the lamentations of old women? "But if I go away, I shall cause them sorrow." You cause them sorrow? By no means; but that will cause them sorrow which also causes you sorrow, opinion. What have you to do then? Take away your own opinion, and if these women are wise, they will take away their own: if they do not, they will lament through their own fault.

My man, as the proverb says, make a desperate effort on behalf of tranquillity of mind, freedom and magnanimity. Lift up your head at last as released from slavery. Dare to look up to God and say, "Deal with me for the future as thou wilt; I am of the same mind as thou art; I am thine: I refuse nothing that pleases thee: lead me where thou wilt: clothe me in any dress thou choosest: is it thy will that I should hold the office of a magistrate, that I should be in the condition of a private man, stay there or be an exile, be poor, be rich? I will make thy defense to men in behalf of all these conditions. I will show the nature of each thing what it is." You will not do so; but sit in an ox's belly, and wait for your mamma till she shall feed you. Who would Hercules have been, if he had sat at home? He would have been Eurystheus and not Hercules. Well, and in his travels through the world how many intimates and how many friends had he? But nothing more dear to him than God. For this reason it was believed that he was the son of God, and he was. In obedience to God, then, he went about purging away injustice and lawlessness. But you are not Hercules and you are not able to purge away the wickedness of others; nor yet are you Theseus, able to pure away the evil things of Attica. Clear away your own. From yourself, from your thoughts cast away, instead of Procrustes and Sciron, sadness, fear, desire, envy, malevolence, avarice, effeminacy, intemperance. But it is not possible to eject these things otherwise than by looking to God only, by fixing your affections on him only, by being consecrated to his commands. But if you choose anything else, you will with sighs and groans be compelled to follow what is stronger than yourself, always seeking tranquillity and never able to find it; for you seek tranquillity there where it is not, and you neglect to seek it where it is.