CHAPTER 6

Against those who lament over being pitied
"I am grieved," a man says, "at being pitied." Whether, then, is the fact of your being pitied a thing which concerns you or those who pity you? Well, is it in your power to stop this pity? "It is in my power, if I show them that I do not require pity." And whether, then, are you in the condition of not deserving pity, or are you not in that condition? "I think I am not: but these persons do not pity me for the things for which, if they ought to pity me, it would be proper, I mean, for my faults; but they pity me for my poverty, for not possessing honourable offices, for diseases and deaths and other such things." Whether, then, are you prepared to convince the many that not one of these things is an evil, but that it is possible for a man who is poor and has no office and enjoys no honour to be happy; or to show yourself to them as rich and in power? For the second of these things belong, to a man who is boastful, silly and good for nothing. And consider by what means the pretense must be supported. It will be necessary for you to hire slaves and to possess a few silver vessels, and to exhibit them in public, if it is possible, though they are often the same, and to attempt to conceal the fact that they are the same, and to have splendid garments, and all other things for display, and to show that you are a man honoured by the great, and to try to sup at their houses, or to be supposed to sup there, and as to your person to employ some mean arts, that you may appear to be more handsome and nobler than you are. These things you must contrive, if you choose to go by the second path in order not to be pitied. But the first way is both impracticable and long, to attempt the very thing which Zeus has not been able to do, to convince all men what things are good and bad. Is this power given to you? This only is given to you, to convince yourself; and you have not convinced yourself. Then I ask you, do you attempt to persuade other men? and who has lived so long with you as you with yourself? and who has so much power of convincing you as you have of convincing yourself; and who is better disposed and nearer to you than you are to yourself? How, then, have you not convinced yourself in order to learn? At present are not things upside down? Is this what you have been earnest about doing, to learn to be free from grief and free from disturbance, and not to be humbled, and to be free? Have you not heard, then, that there is only one way which leads to this end, to give up the things which do not depend on the will, to withdraw from them, and to admit that they belong to others? For another man, then, to have an opinion about you, of what kind is it? "It is a thing independent of the will." Then is it nothing to you? "It is nothing." When, then, you are still vexed at this and disturbed, do you think that you are convinced about good and evil?

Will you not, then, letting others alone, be to yourself both scholar and teacher? "The rest of mankind will look after this, whether it is to their interest to be and to pass their lives in a state contrary to nature: but to me no man is nearer than myself. What, then, is the meaning of this, that I have listened to the words of the philosophers and I assent to them, but in fact I am no way made easier? Am I so stupid? And yet, in all other things such as I have chosen, I have not been found very stupid; but I learned letters quickly, and to wrestle, and geometry, and to resolve syllogisms. Has not, then, reason convinced me? and indeed no other things have I from the beginning so approved and chosen: and now I read about these things, hear about them, write about them; I have so far discovered no reason stronger than this. In what, then, am I deficient? Have the contrary opinions not been eradicated from me? Have the notions themselves not been exercised nor used to be applied to action, but as armour are laid aside and rusted and cannot fit me? And yet neither in the exercises of the palaestra, nor in writing or reading am I satisfied with learning, but I turn up and down the syllogisms which are proposed, and I make others, and sophistical syllogisms also. But the necessary theorems, by proceeding from which a man can become free from grief, fear, passions, hindrance, and a free man, these I do not exercise myself in nor do I practice in these the proper practice. Then I care about what others will say of me, whether I shall appear to them worth notice, whether I shall appear happy."

Wretched man, will you not see what you. are saying about yourself? What do you appear to yourself to be? in your opinions, in your desires, in your aversions from things, in your movements, in your preparation, in your designs, and in other acts suitable to a man? But do you trouble yourself about this, whether others pity you? "Yes, but I am pitied not as I ought to be." Are you then pained at this? and is he who is pained, an object of pity? "Yes." How, then, are you pitied not as you ought to be? For by the very act that you feel about being pitied, you make yourself deserving of pity. What then says Antisthenes? Have you not heard? "It is a royal thing, O Cyrus, to do right and to be ill-spoken of." My head is sound, and all think that I have the headache. What do I care for that? I am free from fever, and people sympathize with me as if I had a fever: "Poor man, for so long a time you have not ceased to have fever." I also say with a sorrowful countenance: "In truth it is now a long time that I have been ill." "What will happen then?" "As God may please": and at the same time I secretly laugh at those who are pitying me. What, then, hinders the same being done in this case also? I am poor, but I have a right opinion about poverty. Why, then, do I care if they pity me for my poverty? I am not in power; but others are: and I have the opinion which I ought to have about having and not having power. Let them look to it who pity me; but I am neither hungry nor thirsty nor do I suffer cold; but because they are hungry or thirsty they think that I too am. What, then, shall I do for them? Shall I go about and proclaim and say: "Be not mistaken, men, I am very well, I do not trouble myself about poverty, nor want of power, nor in a word about anything else than right opinions. These I have free from restraint, I care for nothing at all." What foolish talk is this? How do I possess right opinions when I am not content with being what I am, but am uneasy about what I am supposed to be?

"But," you say, "others will get more and be preferred to me." What, then, is more reasonable than for those who have laboured about anything to have more in that thing in which they have laboured? They have laboured for power, you have laboured about opinions; and they have laboured for wealth, you for the proper use of appearances. See if they have more than you in this about which you have laboured, and which they neglect; if they assent better than you with respect to the natural rules of things; if they are less disappointed than you in their desires; if they fall less into things which they would avoid than you do; if in their intentions, if in the things which they propose to themselves, if in their purposes, if in their motions toward an object they take a better aim; if they better observe a proper behavior, as men, as sons, as parents, and so on as to the other names by which we express the relations of life. But if they exercise power, and you do not, will you not choose to tell yourself the truth, that you do nothing for the sake of this, and they do all? But it is most unreasonable that he who looks after anything should obtain less than he who does not look after it.

"Not so: but since I care about right opinions, it more reasonable for me to have power." Yes in the matter about which you do care, in opinions. But in a matter in which they have cared more than you, give way to them. The case is just the same as if, because you have right opinions, you thought that in using the bow you should hit the mark better than an archer, and in working in metal you should succeed better than a smith. Give up, then, your earnestness about opinions and employ yourself about the things which you wish to acquire; and then lament, if you do not succeed; for you deserve to lament. But now you say that you are occupied with other things, that you are looking after other things; but the many say this truly, that one act has no community with another. He who has risen in the morning seeks whom he shall salute, to whom he shall say something agreeable, to whom he shall send a present, how he shall please the dancing man, how by bad behavior to one he may please another. When he prays, he prays about these things; when he sacrifices, he sacrifices for these things: the saying of Pythagoras

Let sleep not come upon thy languid eyes
he transfers to these things. "Where have I failed in the matters pertaining to flattery?" "What have I done?" Anything like a free man, anything like a noble-minded man? And if he finds anything of the kind, he blames and accuses himself: "Why did you say this? Was it not in your power to lie? Even the philosophers say that nothing hinders us from telling a lie." But do you, if indeed you have cared about nothing else except the proper use of appearances, as soon as you have risen in the morning reflect, "What do I want in order to be free from passion, and free from perturbation? What am I? Am I a poor body, a piece of property, a thing of which something is said? I am none of these. But what am I? I am a rational animal. What then is required of me?" Reflect on your acts. "Where have I omitted the things which conduce to happiness? What have I done which is either unfriendly or unsocial? what have I not done as to these things which I ought to have done?"

So great, then, being, the difference in desires, actions, wishes, would you still have the same share with others in those things about which you have not laboured, and they have laboured? Then are you surprised if they pity you, and are you vexed? But they are not vexed if you pity them. Why? Because they are convinced that they have that which is good, and you are not convinced. For this reason you are not satisfied with your own, but you desire that which they have: but they are satisfied with their own, and do not desire what you have: since, if you were really convinced that with respect to what is good, it is you who are the possessor of it and that they have missed it, you would not even have thought of what they say about you.