In the morning when you find yourself unwilling to rise, consider that it is to go about a man's work that I have awakened. Am I then still unwilling to go about that which I myself was born and brought forth into this world for?
Or was I made for this, to lay me down, and make much of myself in a warm bed? "Oh, but this is pleasing." And was it then for this that you were born, that you might enjoy pleasure? Was it not in very truth for this, that you might always be busy and in action?
Don't you see how all things in the world besides, how every tree and plant, sparrows and ants, spiders and bees, how all in their kind are intent, as it were, to perform in an orderly manner whatever (towards the preservation of this orderly universe) naturally becomes and belongs to them? And will you not do that which a man should do? Will you not run to do that which your nature requires?
"But you must have some rest." Yes, you must. Nature has of that also, as well as eating and drinking, allowed you a certain stint. But you go beyond your stint, and beyond that which would suffice, and in a matter of action, there you come short of that which you may. It must be, therefore, that you don't love yourself, for if you did, you would also love your nature, and that which your nature does propose to herself as her end.
Others, as many as take pleasure in their trade and profession, can even pine themselves at their works, and neglect their bodies and their food for it. Do you honor your nature less than an ordinary mechanic his trade, or a good dancer his? Than a covetous man his silver, and vainglorious man applause? These to whatever they take an affection, can be content to want their meat and sleep, to further that every one which he affects. Shall actions tending to the common good of human society, seem more vile to you, or a warrior of less respect and intention?
How easy a thing is it for a man to put off from him all turbulent adventitious imaginations, and presently to be in perfect rest and tranquility!
Think of yourself as one who is fit to speak or do anything that is according to nature, and don't let the reproach or report of some that may ensue upon it ever deter you. If it's right and honest to be spoken or done, don't undervalue yourself so much as to be discouraged from it.
As for them, they have their own rational over-ruling part, and their own proper inclination which you must not stand and look about to take notice of, but go on straight, where both your own particulars, and the common nature lead you. The way of both these is but one.
I will continue my course of actions according to nature until I fall and cease, breathing out my last breath into the air that I continually breathed in when I lived. Falling on that earth, out of whose gifts and fruits my father gathered his seed, my mother her blood, and my nurse her milk, out of which for so many years I have been provided, with both food and drink. And lastly, which bears me who had tread upon it, and bore me while in so many ways I abuse it, or so freely make use of it, so many ways to so many ends.
No man could admire you for your sharp, acute language, such is your natural disability that way. Be it so, yet there are many other good things for the want of which you can't plead the lack or natural ability. Let those who depend wholly on you be seen: sincerity, gravity, laboriousness, contempt of pleasures, not querulousness, content with little, kind, free, avoiding all superfluity, avoiding all vain prattling, magnanimity.
Don't you see how many things there are which notwithstanding any pretense of natural indisposition and unfitness you might have performed and exhibited, yet still you voluntarily continue drooping downwards? Or will you say that it is through defect of your natural constitution that you are constrained to murmur, to be base and wretched to flatter? Now to accuse, and now to please, and pacify your body, to be vainglorious, to be so giddy-headed, and unsettled in your thoughts?
No (the gods witnesses) of all these you might have gotten rid of long ago. Only, this you must have been contented with, to have borne the blame of one that is somewhat slow and dull, wherein you must exercise yourself as one who neither takes his natural defect much to heart, nor yet pleased himself in it.
There are such who, when they have done a good turn to any are ready to make them pay for it, and to require retaliation. There are others who, though they don't stand on retaliation to require any, still think of themselves nevertheless that such a one is their debtor, and they know as their word is what they have done. There are yet others who, when they have done any such thing, do not so much as know what they have done; but are like to the vine, which bears her grapes, and when once she has borne her own proper fruit, is contented and seeks for no further recompense.
As a horse after a race, and a hunting dog when he has hunted, and a bee when she has made her honey don't look for applause and commendation; so neither does that man who correctly understands his own nature when he has done a good turn—but from one proceeded to do another, even as the vine after she has once borne fruit in her own proper season, is ready for another time.
You therefore must be one of them, who what they do, barely do it without any further thought, and are in a manner insensible of what they do. "No, but," will some reply, "a rational man is bound to this very thing, to understand what it is that he does." For it is the property, say they, of one that is naturally sociable to be sensible, that he operates sociably; nay, and to desire, that the part of himself that is sociably dealt with, should be sensible of it too. I answer, "That which you say is true indeed, but the true meaning of that which is said, you do not understand. And therefore you are one of those first, whom I mentioned. For they also are led by a probable appearance of reason. But if you desire to truly understand what it is that is said, don't fear that you will therefore give over any sociable action."
The form of the Athenians' prayer went like this: "O rain, rain, good Jupiter, upon all the grounds and fields that belong to the Athenians." Either we should not pray at all, or absolutely and freely; and not every one for himself in particular alone.
As we often say, the physician has prescribed riding to this man and cold baths to another; to a third, to go barefoot. So it is the same to say, the nature of the universe has prescribed to this man sickness, or blindness, or some loss, or damage or some such thing.
For as there, when we say of a physician that he has prescribed anything, our meaning is that he has appointed this for that, as subordinate and conducing to health: so here, whatever happens to anyone, is ordained to him as a thing subordinate to the fates. Therefore we say of such things, that they happen, or fall together, as of square stones, when either in walls, or pyramids in a certain position they fit one another, and agree as it were in harmony. The masons say that they come together as if you would say, fall together. So that in general, though the things are different that make it, the consent or harmony itself is but one.
And as the whole world is made up of all the particular bodies of the world, one perfect and complete body, of the same nature that particular bodies, so is the destiny of particular causes and events one general one, of the same nature that particular causes are. What I now say, even they that are mere idiots are not ignorant of, for they often say touto eferen autw; that is, his destiny has brought this upon him.
Therefore, this is properly by the fates and particularly brought upon this, as that to this in particular is prescribed by the physician. Therefore let us accept these in like manner, as we do those that are prescribed to us by our physicians. We shall find them to contain many harsh things for them also in themselves; but we nevertheless, in hope of health, and recovery, accept them.
Let the fulfilling and accomplishment of those things which the common nature has determined be to you as your health. Accept then, and be pleased with whatever happens, though otherwise harsh and unpleasant, as tending to that end, to the health and welfare of the universe, and to Jove's happiness and prosperity. For this, whatever it may be, would not have been produced had it not been for the good of the universe.
For neither does any ordinary particular nature bring anything to pass that is not to whatever is within the sphere of its own proper administration and government, agreeable and subordinate. For these two considerations, then, you must be well pleased with anything that happens to you. First, because it was brought to pass for you, properly, and to you it was prescribed, and that from the very beginning by the series and connection of the first causes, it has ever had a reference to you.
And secondly, because the good success and perfect welfare, and indeed the very continuance of Him, that is the Administrator of the whole, does in a manner depend on it. For the whole (because whole, therefore entire and perfect) is maimed, and mutilated, if you will cut off anything at all, whereby the coherence, and contiguity as of parts, so of causes, is maintained and preserved. Certainly it is, that you (as much as lies in you) cut off, and in some sort violently take something away, as often as you are displeased with anything that happens.
Don't be discontented or disheartened or out of hope if it often doesn't succeed so well, even with you punctually and precisely doing everything according to the right dogma, but being once cast off, return to them again. As for those many and more frequent occurrences, either of worldly distractions or human infirmities which as a man you can't but in some measure be subjected to, don't be discontented with them.
But however, love and affect that only which you should return to: a philosopher's life, and proper occupation after the most exact manner. And when you return to your philosophy, don't return to it as the manner of some, after play and liberty as it were, to their schoolmasters and pedagogues; but as they that have sore eyes to their sponge and egg, or as another to his poultice, or as others to their pain cream. So it will not make it a matter of ostentation at all to obey reason, but of ease and comfort.
And remember that philosophy requires nothing of you but what your nature requires, and would you yourself desire anything that is not according to nature? For which of these do you say, that which is according to nature or against it, it is of itself more kind and pleasing? Is it not especially for that respect that pleasure itself is to so many men's harm and overthrow most prevalent, because they are often esteemed most kind and natural? But consider well whether magnanimity rather, and true liberty, and true simplicity, and equanimity, and holiness; whether these aren't most kind and natural?
And prudence itself, what more kind and amiable than it, when you will truly consider with yourself what it is through all the proper objects of your rational intellectual faculty currently to go on without any fall or stumble? As for the things of the world, their true nature is in a manner so involved with obscurity, that to many philosophers, and those no mean ones, they seemed altogether incomprehensible, and the Stoics themselves, though they judge them not altogether incomprehensible, yet scarce and not without much difficulty, comprehensible, so that all assent of ours is fallible, for who is he that is infallible in his conclusions?
From the nature of things, pass now to their subjects and matter. How temporary, how vile are they such as I may be in the power and possession of some abominable loose liver, of some common strumpet, of some notorious oppressor and extortioner. Pass from there to the dispositions of them that you ordinarily converse with, how hardly do we bear, even with the most loving and amiable!
That I may not say, how hard it is for us to bear even with our own selves, in such obscurity, and impurity of things, in such and so continual a flux both of the substances and time, both of the motions themselves, and things moved. What it is that we can fasten upon, either to honor and respect especially, or seriously, and studiously to seek after, I cannot so much as conceive. For indeed they are contrary things.
You must comfort yourself in the expectation of your natural dissolution, and in the meantime not grieve at the delay, but rest contented in these two things.
First, that nothing will happen to you which is not according to the nature of the universe. Second, that it is in your power to do nothing against your own proper God and inward spirit. For it is not in any man's power to constrain you to transgress against him.
What use do I make of my soul? From time to time and upon all occasions you must put this question to yourself. What is now that part of me which they call the rational mistress part employed with? Whose soul do I now properly possess? A child's? Or a youth's? A woman's? Or a tyrant's? Some brute, or some wild beast's soul?
What those things themselves which by the greatest part are esteemed good are, you may gather even from this: for if a man shall hear things mentioned as good, which are really good indeed, such as prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, after so much is heard and conceived, he cannot endure to hear of any more, for the word "good" is properly spoken of them.
But as for those which are esteemed good by the vulgar, if he shall hear them mentioned as good, he hearkens for more. He is well contented to hear that what is spoken by the comedian, is but familiarly and popularly spoken, so that even the vulgar apprehend the difference.
For why is it else that this doesn't offend and doesn't need to be excused, when virtues are styled good, but that which is spoken in commendation of wealth, pleasure, or honor, we entertain it only as merrily and pleasantly spoken? Proceed therefore, and inquire further, whether it may not be that those things also which being mentioned upon the stage were merrily, and with great applause of the multitude, scoffed at with this jest that they that possessed them had not in all the world of their own, (such was their affluence and plenty) so much as a place where to void their excrement.
Whether, I say, those ought not also in very deed to be much respected, and esteemed of, as the only things that are truly good.
All that I consist of is either form or matter. No corruption can reduce either of these to nothing, for neither did I become a subsistent creature from nothing. Every part of me then will by mutation be disposed into a certain part of the whole world, and that in time into another part. And so in infinity by which kind of mutation I also became what I am, and so did they that begot me, and they before them, and so upwards in infinity.
For so we may be allowed to speak, though the age and government of the world are to some certain periods of time limited and confined.
Reason and rational power are faculties which content themselves with themselves and their own proper operations. And as for their first inclination and motion, they take that from themselves. But their progress is right to the end and object, which is in their way, as it were, and lies just before them; that is, which is feasible and possible, whether it is that which at the first they proposed to themselves or not.
For which reason also such actions are termed katorqwseiz to intimate the directness of the way by which they are achieved. Nothing must be thought to belong to a man which does not belong to him, as he is a man. These, the event of purposes, are not things that are required in a man. The nature of man does not profess any such things. The final ends and consummation of actions are nothing at all to a man's nature. The end therefore of a man, or the summum bonum whereby that end is fulfilled, cannot consist in the consummation of actions purposed and intended.
Again, concerning these outward worldly things, were it so that any of them properly belonged to man, then it would not belong to man to condemn them and to stand in opposition with them. Neither would he be praiseworthy that can live without them; or he is good, (if these were good indeed) who of his own accord deprives himself of any of them. But we see contrariwise, that the more a man withdraws himself from these where external pomp and greatness consists, or any other like these; or the better he bears with the loss of these, the better he is accounted.
Such as your thoughts and ordinary cogitations are, such will your mind be in time. For the soul receives, as it were, its tincture from the fancies, and imaginations. Dye it therefore and thoroughly soak it with the diligence of these cogitations.
As for example, wherever you may live, it is in your power to live well and happy there. But you may live at the Court, there then also may you live well and happy.
Again, that which everything is made for, he is also made to that, and can only naturally incline to it. That which anything naturally inclines to, there is its end. Where the end of everything consists, his good and benefit consist there also.
Society, therefore, is the proper good of a rational creature. For that, we are made for society. Or can any man make any question of this, that whatever is naturally worse and inferior, is ordinarily subordinated to that which is better? And that those things that are best, are made one for another? And those things that have souls, are better than those that have none? And of those that have, those best that have rational souls?
Desiring the impossible is crazy. But it is impossible that a wicked man should refrain from committing some such things. Neither does anything happen to any man which in the ordinary course of nature as natural to him doesn't happen.
Again, the same things happen to others, also. And truly, if either he that is ignorant that such a thing has happened to him, or he that is ambitious to be commended for his magnanimity, can be patient, and is not grieved: is it not a grievous thing that either ignorance or a vain desire to please and to be commended should be more powerful and effectual than true prudence?
As for the things themselves, they don't touch the soul, neither can they have any access to it. Neither can they of themselves in any way either affect it, or move it. For she herself alone can affect and move herself, and according as the dogma and opinions are, which she does vouchsafe herself; so are those things which, as accessories, have any coexistence with her.
After due consideration, man is nearest to us, as we are bound to do them good and to bear with them. But as he may oppose any of our true proper actions, so man is to me as only an indifferent thing; even as the sun, or the wind, or some wild beast.
By some of these it may be that some operation or other of mine may be hindered; however, of my mind and resolution itself there can be no let or impediment, by reason of that ordinary constant both exception (or reservation wherewith it inclines) and ready conversion of objects; from that which isn't to that which is, which in the prosecution of its inclinations, as occasion serves, it observes.
For by these the mind turns and converts any impediment whatever to be her aim and purpose. So that what was the impediment before is now the principal object of her working; and that which was in her way before is now her readiest way.
Honor that which is the chiefest and most powerful in the world, and that is it which makes use of all things and governs all things. So also in yourself—honor that which is chiefest, and most powerful, and is of one kind and nature with that which we now speak of. For it is the very same, which being in you, turns all other things to its own use, and by whom your life is also governed.
That which doesn't hurt the city itself can't hurt any citizen. You must remember to apply this rule and make use of every conceit and apprehension of wrong. If the whole city is not hurt by this, neither am I, certainly. And if the whole is not, why should I make it my private grievance?
Consider rather what it is that he is overseen that is thought to have done wrong. Again, often meditate how swiftly all things that subsist, and all things that are done in the world, are carried away, as it were, conveyed out of sight. For both the substances themselves, we see as a flood in a continual flux, and all actions in a perpetual change, the causes themselves, subject to a thousand alterations, neither is there anything almost that may ever be said to be now settled and constant.
Next to this, and which follows upon it, consider both the infinity of the time already past, and the immense vastness of that which is to come, wherein all things are to be resolved and annihilated. Aren't you then very foolish, who for these things are either puffed up with pride, or distracted with cares, or can find in your heart to make such moans as for a thing that would trouble you for a very long time?
Consider the whole universe, where you are but a very little part, and the whole age of the world together, where but a short and very momentary portion is allotted to you, and all the fates and destinies together, of which how much is it that comes to your part and share!
Again: another trespasses against me. Let him look to that. He is master of his own disposition, and of his own operation. I for my part am in the meantime in possession of as much, as the common nature would have me to possess. That which my own nature would have me do, I do.
Don't let that chief commanding part of your soul ever be subject to any variation through anything corporal, either pain or pleasure, and don't let it be mixed with these, but let it both circumscribe itself and confine those affections to their own proper parts and members.
But if at any time they reflect and rebound on the mind and understanding (as it must need in a united and compacted body) then you must not go about resisting sense and feeling, it's natural. However, don't let your understanding to this natural sense and feeling, which whether pleasant or painful to our flesh, is properly nothing to us, except to add an opinion of either good or bad, and all is well.
To live with the gods: He lives with the gods who at all times affords the spectacle of a soul to them, both contented and well pleased with whatever is afforded or allotted to her; and performing whatever is pleasing to that Spirit, whom (being part of himself) Jove has appointed to every man as his overseer and governor.
Don't be angry with someone who has bad breath or body odor. What can he do? His breath is like that naturally, and so are his armpits; and from such, such an effect and such a smell must necessarily proceed.
"Oh, but the man," you say, "has understanding, and might himself know that by standing near he can't help but offend." And you also (God bless you!) have understanding. Let your reasonable faculty work on his reasonable faculty; show him his fault, admonish him. If he hearkens to you, you have cured him, and there will be no more occasion to be angry.
"Where is it that there is neither a loudmouth or a slut?" Why so? As you plan to live, when you have retired to some such place, where there is neither a loudmouth or a slut, so may you here.
And if they will not suffer you, then you may leave your life rather than your calling, but so does one that does not think himself anyways wronged. Only as one would say, Here is smoke; I will get out of it. And what a great matter is this! Now until some such thing forces me out, I will continue free; neither shall any man hinder me to do what I will, and my will shall ever be by the proper nature of a reasonable and sociable creature, regulated and directed.
That rational essence by which the universe is governed is for community and society; and therefore has it both made the things that are worse, for the best, and has allied and knit together those which are best, as it were, in harmony. Don't you see how it has subordinated, and coordinated? And how it has distributed to everything according to its worth? And those which have the preeminence and superiority above all, has it united together into a mutual consent and agreement.
How have you carried yourself towards the gods so far? Towards your parents? Towards your brethren? Towards your wife? Towards your children? Towards your masters? Your foster-fathers? Your friends? Your domestics? Your servants?
Is it so with you, that from now on you have neither by word or deed wronged any of them? Remember through how many things you have already passed, and how many you have been able to endure; so that now the legend of your life is full, and your charge is accomplished.
Again, how many truly good things have you discerned with certainty? How many pleasures, how many pains have you passed over with contempt? How many things eternally glorious have you despised? Towards how many perverse unreasonable men have you carried yourself kindly, and discreetly?
Why should imprudent unlearned souls trouble that which is both learned, and prudent? And which is that that is so? She that understands the beginning and the end, and has the true knowledge of that rational essence that passes through all things subsisting, and through all ages always being the same, disposing and dispensing, as it were, this universe by certain periods of time.
Within a very short time you will be either ashes or a skeleton, and perchance a name; and perchance, not so much as a name. And what is that but an empty sound, and a rebounding echo?
Those things which in this life are dearest to us, and of most account, they are in themselves but vain, putrid, contemptible. The most weighty and serious, if rightly esteemed, but as puppies biting one another. Untoward children, now laughing and then crying.
As for faith, and modesty, and justice, and truth, they long since, as one of the poets has it, have abandoned this spacious earth and retired themselves to heaven. What is it then that keeps you here, if sensible things are so mutable and unsettled? And the senses so obscure, and so fallible? And our souls nothing but an exhalation of blood? And to be in credit among such, is only vanity? What is it that you stay for?
An extinction, or a translation, either of them with a propitious and contented mind. But still when that time comes, what will content you? What else, but to worship and praise the gods, and to do good to men. To bear with them, and to forbear to do them any wrong. And for all external things belonging either to this, your wretched body, or life, to remember that they are neither yours, nor in your power.
You may always go fast, and only if you choose the right way in the course of both your opinions and actions, will you observe a true method. These two things are common to the souls; as it is of God, so it is of men, and of every reasonable creature, first that in their own proper work they cannot be hindered by anything, and secondly, that their happiness consists in a disposition to and in the practice of righteousness; and that in these their desire is terminated.
If this is neither my wicked act or an act that in any way is caused by any wickedness of mine, and that by it the public is not hurt, what does it concern me?
And how can the public be hurt? For you must not be carried altogether by conceit and common opinion. As for help, you must afford that to them after your best ability, and as occasion shall require. Though they sustain damage, but only in these middle or worldly things, don't conceive that they are truly hurt thereby, for that is not right.
But as that old foster-father in the comedy, being now to take his leave does with a great deal of ceremony, require his foster-child's rhombus, or rattle-top, remembering nevertheless that it is but a rhombus; so here also do likewise.
For indeed, what is all this pleading and public bawling for at the courts? Oh, man, have you forgotten what those things are? Yes, but they are things that others much care for, and highly esteem. Will you therefore be a fool, too? Once I was; let that suffice.
Let death surprise me when it will, and where it will. I will be a happy man, nevertheless. For he is a happy man who in his lifetime deals to himself a happy lot and portion. A happy lot and portion is good inclinations of the soul, good desires, and good actions.
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