And what is the difference between us?

And what is the difference between us?

“What then,” you say, “is the difference between you, the wise man, and me, the fool, if we both wish to have riches?” The very greatest; for in the eyes of a wise man riches are a slave, in the eyes of fools a master; the wise man grants no importance to riches, to you riches are everything. You accustom yourself to them and cling to them just as if someone had assured you that they would be a lasting possession; the wise man never reflects so much upon poverty as when he abides in the midst of riches. No general ever trusts so wholly to peace as to fail to make ready for a war that has been declared, even if it is not yet being waged. As for you, a beautiful house makes you arrogant, just as if it could never be burned or tumble down; you are stupefied by your wealth, just as if it had escaped every risk and had become so great that Fortune had lost all power to destroy it. Idly you play with your riches, and do not descry the danger they are in — you are like the barbarians who, usually, when they are blockaded, having no knowledge of the engines of war, watch with indifference the effort of the besiegers, and do not surmise the purpose of the constructions that are being erected afar. So it is with you; you loll in the midst of your possessions, and give no heed to the many disasters that threaten from every side and all too soon will carry off the costly spoils. But the wise man —whoever steals away his riches will still leave to him all that is his own; for he ever lives happy in the present and unconcerned about the future.

“Upon nothing,” says a Socrates, or any other who has like authority and like ability to cope with human affairs, “am I more strongly resolved than not to change my course of life to suit your opinion. Heap upon me from every side the usual taunts; I shall not consider that you are railing at me, but that you are wailing like poor little babies.” These will be the words of him who has found wisdom, whose soul, free from all vices, bids him chide others, not because he hates them, but in order to cure them. And, too, he will add others: “Your opinion of me moves me, not on my own account, but on yours; for to hate and to assail virtue with your outcry, is to disavow the hope of being good. You do me no harm, but neither do men harm the gods when they overturn their altars. But evil intention and an evil purpose are apparent even where there has been no power to harm.”



On the happy life

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