For this reason the good is preferred to every intimate relationship. There is no intimate relationship between me and my father, but there is between me and the good. "Are you so hard-hearted?" Yes, for such is my nature; and this is the coin which God has given me. For this reason, if the good is something different from the beautiful and the just, both father is gone, and brother and country, and everything. But shall I overlook my own good, in order that you may have it, and shall I give it up to you? Why? "I am your father." But you are not my good. "I am your brother." But you are not my good. But if we place the good in a right determination of the will, the very observance of the relations of life is good, and accordingly he who gives up any external things obtains that which is good. Your father takes away your property. But he does not injure you. Your brother will have the greater part of the estate in land. Let him have as much as he chooses. Will he then have a greater share of modesty, of fidelity, of brotherly affection? For who will eject you from this possession? Not even Zeus, for neither has he chosen to do so; but he has made this in my own power, and he has given it to me just as he possessed it himself, free from hindrance, compulsion, and impediment. When then the coin which another uses is a different coin, if a man presents this coin, he receives that which is sold for it. Suppose that there comes into the province a thievish proconsul, what coin does he use? Silver coin. Show it to him, and carry off what you please. Suppose one comes who is an adulterer: what coin does he use? Little girls. "Take," a man says, "the coin, and sell me the small thing." "Give," says the seller, "and buy." Another is eager to possess boys. Give him the coin, and receive what you wish. Another is fond of hunting: give him a fine nag or a dog. Though he groans and laments, he will sell for it that which you want. For another compels him from within, he who has fixed this coin.
Against this kind of thing chiefly a man should exercise himself. As soon as you go out in the morning, examine every man whom you see, every man whom you hear; answer as to a question, "What have you seen?" A handsome man or woman? Apply the rule: Is this independent of the will, or dependent? Independent. Take it away. What have you seen? A man lamenting over the death of a child. Apply the rule. Death is a thing independent of the will. Take it away. Has the proconsul met you? Apply the rule. What kind of thing is a proconsul's office? Independent of the will, or dependent on it? Independent. Take this away also: it does not stand examination: cast it away: it is nothing to you.
If we practiced this and exercised ourselves in it daily from morning to night, something indeed would be done. But now we are forthwith caught half-asleep by every appearance, and it is only, if ever, that in the school we are roused a little. Then when we go out, if we see a man lamenting, we say, "He is undone." If we see a consul, we say, "He is happy." If we see an exiled man, we say, "He is miserable." If we see a poor man, we say, "He is wretched: he has nothing to eat."
We ought then to eradicate these bad opinions, and to this end we should direct all our efforts. For what is weeping and lamenting? Opinion. What is bad fortune? Opinion. What is civil sedition, what is divided opinion, what is blame, what is accusation, what is impiety, what is trifling? All these things are opinions, and nothing more, and opinions about things independent of the will, as if they were good and bad. Let a man transfer these opinions to things dependent on the will, and I engage for him that he will be firm and constant, whatever may be the state of things around him. Such as is a dish of water, such is the soul. Such as is the ray of light which falls on the water, such are the appearances. When the water is moved, the ray also seems to be moved, yet it is not moved. And when, then, a man is seized with giddiness, it is not the arts and the virtues which are confounded, but the spirit on which they are impressed; but if the spirit be restored to its settled state, those things also are restored.