They do not accept a word of admonition by following which they would acquiesce in the present without fault-finding… (PLUTARCH)

They do not accept a word of admonition by following which they would acquiesce in the present without fault-finding… (PLUTARCH)

On Tranquillity of Mind

We can, however, make this reply to Menander: “True,
No man alive may say, ‘I shall not suffer this,’
yet while still alive one can say, ‘I will not do this: I will not lie nor play the villain nor defraud nor scheme.’ ” For this is in our power and is not a small, but a great help toward tranquillity of mind. Even as, on the contrary again,
My conscience, since I know I’ve done a dreadful deed, (Euripides)
like an ulcer in the flesh, leaves behind it in the soul regret which ever continues to wound and prick it. For the other pangs reason does away with, but  regret is caused by reason itself, since the soul, together with its feeling of shame, is stung and chastised by itself. For as those who shiver with ague or burn with fevers are more distressed and pained than those who suffer the same discomforts through heat or cold from a source outside the body, so the pangs which fortune brings, coming, as it were, from a source without, are lighter to bear; but that lament,
None is to blame for this but me myself, (Callimachus)
which is chanted over one’s errors, coming as it does from within, makes the pain even heavier by reason of the disgrace one feels. And so it is that no costly house nor abundance of gold nor pride of race nor pomp of office, no grace of language, no eloquence, impart so much calm and serenity to life as does a soul free from evil acts and purposes and possessing an imperturbable and undefiled character as the source of its life, a source whence flow fair actions which have both an inspired and joyous activity joined with a lofty pride therein, and a memory sweeter and more stable than that hope of Pindar’s which sustains old age.
For do not censers, as Carneades said, even if they have been completely emptied, retain their  fragrance for a long time, and in the soul of the wise man do not fair actions leave behind the remembrance of them eternally delightful and fresh, by which joy in them is watered and flourishes, and he comes to despise those who bewail and abuse life as a land of calamities or a place of exile appointed here for our souls?
And I am delighted with Diogenes, who, when he saw his host in Sparta preparing which much ado for a certain festival, said, “Does not a good man consider every day a festival?” and a very splendid one, to be sure, if we are sound of mind.
Since life is a most perfect initiation into these things and a ritual celebration of them, it should be full of tranquillity and joy, and not in the manner of the vulgar, who wait for the festivals of Cronus and of Zeus and the Panathenaea and other days of the kind, at which to enjoy and refresh themselves, paying the wages of hired laughter to mimes and dancers.
And though men delight in sweetly sounding instruments and singing birds, and take pleasure in seeing animals romping and frisking, and, on the contrary, are displeased when they howl and bellow and look fierce; yet though they see that their own life is unsmiling and dejected and ever oppressed and afflicted by the most unpleasant experiences and troubles and unending cares, they not only do not provide themselves with some alleviation or ease — from what source could they do so? — but even when others urge them, they do not accept a word of admonition by following which they would acquiesce in the present without fault-finding, remember the past with thankfulness, and meet the future without fear or suspicion, with their hopes cheerful and bright.






Plutarch’s Morals



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