18 Sep When he becomes the friend of Caesar, then does he cease to be restrained; Is he happy?
It is needful not to be foolish, but to learn what Socrates taught, the nature of things; and not rashly to apply general principles to particulars. For the cause of all human evils is the not being able to apply general principles to special cases.
But different people have different grounds of complaint; one, for instance, that he is sick. That is not the trouble; it is in his principles. Another, that he is poor; another, that he has a harsh father and mother; another, that he is not in the good graces of Caesar. This is nothing else but not understanding how to apply our principles.
For who has not an idea of evil, that it is hurtful; that it is to be avoided; that it is by all means to be prudently guarded against? One principle does not contradict another, except when it comes to be applied.
What, then, is this evil, –thus hurtful and to be avoided? “Not to be the friend of Caesar,” says someone. He is gone; he has failed in applying his principles; he is embarrassed; he seeks what is nothing to the purpose. For if he comes to be Caesar’s friend, he is still no nearer to what he sought. For what is it that every man seeks? To be secure, to be happy, to do what he pleases without restraint and without compulsion. When he becomes the friend of Caesar, then does he cease to be restrained; to be compelled? Is he secure? Is he happy?
Whom shall we ask? Whom can we better credit than this very man who has been his friend? Come forth and tell us whether you sleep more quietly now than before you were the friend of Caesar. You presently hear him cry, “Leave off, for Heaven’s sake! and do not insult me. You know not the miseries I suffer; there is no sleep for me; but one comes and says that Caesar is already awake; another, that he is just going out. Then follow perturbations, then cares.” Well, and when did you use to sup the more pleasantly,- formerly, or now? Hear what he says about this too. When he is not invited, he is distracted; and if he is, he sups like a slave with his master, solicitous all the while not to say or do anything foolish. And what think you? Is he afraid of being whipped like a slave? No such easy penalty. No; but rather, as becomes so great a man, Caesar’s friend, of losing his head. And when did you bathe the more quietly; when did you perform your exercises the more at your leisure; in short, which life would you rather wish to live, -your present, or the former? I could swear there is no one so stupid and insensible as not to deplore his miseries, in proportion as he is the more the friend of Caesar.
Epictetus, Discourses, About Freedom.