Friday, May 27, 2022

A Nobody Anywhere

"Let not these reflections oppress you: 'I shall live without honour, and be nobody anywhere.'  For, if lack of honour is an evil, you cannot be evil through the instrumentality of some other person, any more than you can be in shame.  It is not your business, is it, to get office, or to be invited to a dinner party?  Certainly not.

How, then, can this be any longer a lack of honour?  And how is it that you will be "nobody anywhere,", when you ought to be somebody only in those things which are under your control, wherein you are privileged to be a man of the very greatest honour?  But your friends will be without assistance?  What do you mean by being 'without assistance"?  They will not have paltry coin from you, and you will not make them Roman citizens. 

Well, who told you that these are some of the matters under our control, and not rather things which others do?  And who is able to give another what he himself does not have?  'Get money' says some friend, 'in order that we too may have it.'  If I can get money and at the same time keep myself self- respecting, and faithful, and high-minded, show me the way and I will get it.  But if you require me to lose the good things that belong to me, in order that you may acquire the things that are not good, you can see for yourselves how unfair and inconsiderate you are.  And which do you really prefer?  Money, or a faithful and self-respecting friend?  Help me, therefore, rather to this end, and do not require me to do those things which will make me lose these qualities.

'But my country,' says he, 'so far as lies to me, will be without assistance.'  Again I ask, what kind of assistance do you mean?  It will not have loggias (exterior covered galleries) or baths of your providing.  And what does that signify?  Or neither does have shoes provided by the blacksmith, nor has it arms provided by the cobbler; but it is sufficient if each man fulfill his own proper function.  And if you secured for it another faithful and self-respecting citizen, would you not be doing it any good.  'Yes.'  Very well, and then you also would not be useless to it. 

 'What place, then, shall I have in the State?' says he.  Whatever place you can have, and at the same time maintain the man of fidelity and self-respect that is in you.  But if, through your desire to help the State, you lose these qualities, of what good would you become to it, when in the end you turned out to be shameless and unfaithful?"

- Epictetus, The Encheiridion

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