CHAPTER 20

That we can derive advantage from all external things
In the case of appearances, which are objects of the vision, nearly all have allowed the good and the evil to be in ourselves, and not in externals. No one gives the name of good to the fact that it is day, nor bad to the fact that it is night, nor the name of the greatest evil to the opinion that three are four. But what do men say? They say that knowledge is good, and that error is bad; so that even in respect to falsehood itself there is a good result, the knowledge that it is falsehood. So it ought to be in life also. "Is health a good thing, and is sickness a bad thing" No, man. "But what is it?" To be healthy, and healthy in a right way, is good: to be healthy in a bad way is bad; so that it is possible to gain advantage even from sickness, I declare. For is it not possible to gain advantage even from death, and is it not possible to gain advantage from mutilation? Do you think that Menoeceus gained little by death? "Could a man who says so, gain so much as Menoeceus gained?" Come, man, did he not maintain the character of being a lover of his country, a man of great mind, faithful, generous? And if he had continued to live, would he not have lost all these things? would he not have gained the opposite? would he not have gained the name of coward, ignoble, a hater of his country, a man who feared death? Well, do you think that he gained little by dying? "I suppose not." But did the father of Admetus gain much by prolonging his life so ignobly and miserably? Did he not die afterward? Cease, I adjure you by the gods, to admire things. Cease to make yourselves slaves, first of things, then on account of things slaves of those who are able to give them or take them away.

"Can advantage then be derived from these things." From all; and from him who abuses you. Wherein does the man who exercises before the combat profit the athlete? Very greatly. This man becomes my exerciser before the combat: he exercises me in endurance, in keeping my temper, in mildness. You say no: but he, who lays hold of my neck and disciplines my loins and shoulders, does me good; and the exercise master does right when he says: "Raise him up with both hands, and the heavier he is, so much the more is my advantage." But if a man exercises me in keeping my, temper, does he not do good? This is not knowing how to gain an advantage from men. "Is my neighbour bad?" Bad to himself, but good to me: he exercises my good disposition, my moderation. "Is my father bad?" Bad to himself, but to me good. This is the rod of Hermes: "Touch with it what you please," as the saying is. "and it will be of gold." I say not so: but bring what you please, and I will make it good. Bring disease, bring death, bring poverty, bring abuse, bring trial on capital charges: all these things through the rod of Hermes shall be made profitable. "What will you do with death?" Why, what else than that it shall do you honour, or that it shall show you by act through it, what a man is who follows the will of nature? "What will you do with disease?" I will show its nature, I will be conspicuous in, it, I will be firm, I will be happy, I will not flatter the physician, I will not wish to die. What else do you seek? Whatever you shall give me, I will make it happy, fortunate, honoured, a thing which a man shall seek.

You say No: but take care that you do not fall sick: it is a bad thing." This is the same as if you should say, "Take care that you never receive the impression that three are four: that is bad." Man, how is it bad? If I think about it as I ought, how shall it, then, do me any damage? and shall it not even do me good? If, then, I think about poverty as I ought to do, about disease, about not having office, is not that enough for me? will it not be an advantage? How, then, ought I any longer to look to seek evil and good in externals? What happens these doctrines are maintained here, but no man carries them away home; but immediately every one is at war with his slave, with his neighbours, with those who have sneered at him, with those who have ridiculed him. Good luck to Lesbius, who daily proves that I know nothing.