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"If then all things that grow, nay, our own bodies, are thus bound up with the whole, is not this still truer of our souls? And if our souls are bound up and in contact with God, as being very parts and fragments plucked from Himself, shall He not feel every movement of theirs as though it were His own, and belonging to His own nature?"
"But," you say, "I cannot comprehend all this at once."
"Why, who told you that your powers were equal to God's?"
Yet God hath placed by the side of each a man's own Guardian Spirit, who is charged to watch over him—a Guardian who sleeps not nor is deceived. For to what better or more watchful Guardian could He have committed which of us? So when you have shut the doors and made a darkness within, remember never to say that you are alone; for you are not alone, but God is within, and your Guardian Spirit, and what light do they need to behold what you do? To this God you also should have sworn allegiance, even as soldiers unto Csar. They, when their service is hired, swear to hold the life of Csar dearer than all else: and will you not swear your oath, that are deemed worthy of so many and great gifts? And will you not keep your oath when you have sworn it? And what oath will you swear? Never to disobey, never to arraign or murmur at aught that comes to you from His hand: never unwillingly to do or suffer aught that necessity lays upon you.
"Is this oath like theirs?"
They swear to hold no other dearer than Csar: you, to hold our true selves dearer than all else beside.
"How shall my brother cease to be wroth with me?"
Bring him to me, and I will tell him. But to thee I have nothing to say about his anger.
When one took counsel of Epictetus, saying, "What I seek is this, how even though my brother be not reconciled to me, I may still remain as Nature would have me to be," he replied: "All great things are slow of growth; nay, this is true even of a grape or of a fig. If then you say to me now, I desire a fig, I shall answer, It needs time: wait till it first flower, then cast its blossom, then ripen. Whereas then the fruit of the fig-tree reaches not maturity suddenly nor yet in a single hour, do you nevertheless desire so quickly, and easily to reap the fruit of the mind of man?—Nay, expect it not, even though I bade you!"
Epaphroditus had a shoemaker whom he sold as being good-for-nothing. This fellow, by some accident, was afterwards purchased by one of Csar's men, and became a shoemaker to Csar. You should have seen what respect Epaphroditus paid him then. "How does the good Felicion? Kindly let me know!" And if any of us inquired, "What is Epaphroditus doing?" the answer was, "He is consulting about so and so with Felicion."—Had he not sold him as good-for-nothing? Who had in a trice converted him into a wiseacre?
This is what comes of holding of importance anything but the things that depend on the Will.
What you shun enduring yourself, attempt not to impose on others. You shun slavery—beware of enslaving others! If you can endure to do that, one would think you had been once upon a time a slave yourself. For Vice has nothing in common with virtue, nor Freedom with slavery.
Has a man been raised to tribuneship? Every one that he meets congratulates him. One kisses him on the eyes, another on the neck, while the slaves kiss his hands. He goes home to find torches burning; he ascends to the Capitol to sacrifice.—Who ever sacrificed for having had right desires; for having conceived such inclinations as Nature would have him? In truth we thank the Gods for that wherein we place our happiness.
A man was talking to me to-day about the priesthood of Augustus. I said to him, "Let the thing go, my good Sir; you will spend a good deal to no purpose."
"Well, but my name will be inserted in all documents and contracts."
"Will you be standing there to tell those that read them, That is my name written there? And even if you could now be there in every case, what will you do when you are dead?"
"At all events my name will remain."
"Inscribe it on a stone and it will remain just as well. And think, beyond Nicopolis what memory of you will there be?"
"But I shall have a golden wreath to wear."
"If you must have a wreath, get a wreath of roses and put it on; you will look more elegant!"
Above all, remember that the door stands open. Be not more fearful than children; but as they, when they weary of the game, cry, "I will play no more," even so, when thou art in the like case, cry, "I will play no more" and depart. But if thou stayest, make no lamentation.
Is there smoke in the room? If it be slight, I remain; if grievous, I quit it. For you must remember this and hold it fast, that the door stands open.
"You shall not dwell at Nicopolis!"
Well and good.
"Nor at Athens."
Then I will not dwell at Athens either.
"Nor at Rome."
Nor at Rome either.
"You shall dwell in Gyara!"
Well: but to dwell in Gyara seems to me like a grievous smoke; I depart to a place where none can forbid me to dwell: that habitation is open unto all! As for the last garment of all, that is the poor body; beyond that, none can do aught unto me. This why Demetrius said to Nero: "You threaten me with death; it is Nature who threatens you!"