23 Aug The cause of happiness which lies within us is greater than the cause that comes from things.
Compared with genuine personal advantages, such as a great mind or a great heart, all the privileges of rank, birth, even royal birth, wealth, and so on, are as kings on the stage to kings in real life. Metrodorus, the first disciple of Epicurus, gave the title to a chapter: περί του μείζονα είναι την παρ’ ημάς αιτίαν προς ευδαιμονίαν της εκ των πραγμάτων. (‘The cause of happiness which lies within us is greater than the cause that comes from things’, Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, lib. II, c. 21, p. 362 of the Würzburg edition of the polemical works). And it is certain that for man’s well-being, indeed for his whole mode of existence, the main thing is obviously what exists or occurs within himself. For here is to be found immediately his inner satisfaction or dissatisfaction which is primarily the result of his feeling, his willing, and his thinking. On the other hand, everything situated outside him has on him only an indirect influence; and so the same external events and circumstances affect each of us quite differently; and indeed with the same environment each lives in a world of his own. For a man is directly concerned only with his own conceptions, feelings, and voluntary movements; things outside influence him only in so far as they give rise to these. The world in which each lives depends first on his interpretation thereof and therefore proves to be different to different men. Accordingly, it will result in being poor, shallow, and superficial, or rich, interesting, and full of meaning. For example, while many envy another man the interesting events that have happened to him in his life, they should rather envy his gift of interpretation which endowed those events with the significance they have when he describes them. For the same event that appears to be so interesting in the mind of a man of intelligence would be only a dull and vapid scene from the commonplace world when conceived in the shallow mind of an ordinary man.
All this is due to the fact that every reality, in other words, every moment of actual experience, consists of two halves, the subject and the object, although in just as necessary and close a connection as are oxygen and hydrogen in water. Therefore when the objective half is exactly the same, but the subjective is different, the present reality is quite different, just as it is in the reverse case; thus the finest and best objective half with a dull and inferior subjective half furnishes only an inferior reality, like a beautiful landscape in dull weather.
Parerga and Paralipomena