Ideas not to worry about:
“I’ll live without recognition, and be nobody.” If obscurity is evil, you can’t be left in obscurity by someone else, any more than you can be involved in anything disgraceful by someone else. Is it your business to get a powerful job, or to be invited to dinner parties? No way. So how does lacking these things add up to being nobody? Your job is to be somebody in exactly those areas that you can control – and there you can become as great a person as you want.
“But I won’t be able to assist my friends.” What kind of assistance? Do you mean you won’t be able to give them money or get them political favors? Who told you that things like that are under our control? How can you give anyone things that you don’t have yourself? They want you to make money, so they can share in your prosperity. If they can tell you how to make money, and still be modest and honest and principled, let them tell you, and go to it. But if they want you to give up what’s really yours and worth having, to chase after what’s not worth having, they are obviously unfair and uncaring of your interest. Besides, which are they better off having, money or an honest friend? Better they should help you develop your character than ask you to do things that endanger it.
“But the public interest will suffer from the lack of my attention.” Here again, what kind attention is involved? You won’t be endowing an animal hospital, or pressuring your Congressman on some burning issue? What does that mean? The community doesn’t get shoes from a lawyer; the army doesn’t get bullets from a farmer. It’s enough if everyone does his own work well, and if you’re providing nothing more than one honest citizen, you’re making a contribution. Your own growth is in the public interest.
“What position should I hold, then?” Any position you can, as long as you can also hold your honesty and modesty. But if your desire to be useful costs you those, what good can you possibly be to the community?
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 in 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 does not himself have? “Get money, then,” 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 in me, will be without assistance.” Again I ask, what kind of assistance do you mean? It will not have loggias or baths of your providing. And what does that signify? For neither does it have shoes provided by the blacksmith, nor has it arms provided by the cobbler; but it is sufficient if each man fulfil 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?
Let not reflections such as these afflict you: ‘I shall live without honour, and never be of any account’; for if lack of honour is an evil, no one but yourself can involve you in evil any more than in shame. Is it your business to get office or to be invited to an entertainment?
Where then is the dishonour you talk of? How can you be ‘of no account anywhere’, when you ought to count for something in those matters only which are in your power, where you may achieve the highest worth? ‘But my friends,’ you say, ‘will lack assistance.’
What do you mean by ‘lack assistance’? They will not have cash from you and you will not make them Roman citizens. Who told you that to do these things is in our power, and not dependent upon others? Who can give to another what is not his to give?
‘Get them then,’ says he, ‘that we may have them.’
If I can get them and keep my self-respect, honour, magnanimity, show the way and I will get them. But if you call on me to lose the good things that are mine, in order that you may win things that are not good, look how unfair and thoughtless you are. And which do you really prefer? Money, or a faithful, modest friend? Therefore help me rather to keep these qualities, and do not expect from me actions which will make me lose them.
‘But my country,’ says he, ‘will lack assistance, so far as lies in me.’
Once more I ask, What assistance do you mean? It will not owe colonnades or baths to you. What of that? It does not owe shoes to the blacksmith or arms to the shoemaker; it is sufficient if each man fulfils his own function. Would you do it no good if you secured to it another faithful and modest citizen?
Well, then, you would not be useless to it.
‘What place then shall I have in the city?’
Whatever place you can hold while you keep your character for honour and self-respect. But if you are going to lose these qualities in trying to benefit your city, what benefit, I ask, would you have done her when you attain to the perfection of being lost to shame and honour?
Let not these thoughts afflict you, I shall live unhonored and be nobody nowhere. For if want of honor is an evil, you cannot be in evil through the means (fault) of another any more than you can be involved in anything base. Is it then your business to obtain the rank of a magistrate, or to be received at a banquet? By no means. How then can this be want of honor (dishonor)? And how will you be nobody nowhere, when you ought to be somebody in those things only which are in your power, in which indeed it is permitted to you to be a man of the greatest worth? But your friends will be without assistance! What do you mean by being without assistance? They will not receive money from you, nor will you make them Roman citizens. Who then told you that these are among the things which are in our power, and not in the power of others? And who can give to another what he has not himself? Acquire money then, your friends say, that we also may have something. If I can acquire money and also keep myself modest, and faithful and magnanimous, point out the way, and I will acquire it. But if you ask me to lose the things which are good and my own, in order that you may gain the things which are not good, see how unfair and silly you are. Besides, which would you rather have, money or a faithful and modest friend? For this end, then, rather help me to be such a man, and do not ask me to do this by which I shall lose that character. But my country, you say, as far as it depends on me, will be without my help. I ask again, what help do you mean? It will not have porticoes or baths through you. And what does this mean? For it is not furnished with shoes by means of a smith, nor with arms by means of a shoemaker. But it is enough if every man fully discharges the work that is his own: and if you provided it with another citizen faithful and modest, would you not be useful to it? Yes. Then you also cannot be useless to it. What place, then, you say, shall I hold in the city? Whatever you can, if you maintain at the same time your fidelity and modesty. But if when you wish to be useful to the state, you shall lose these qualities, what profit could you be to it, if you were made shameless and faithless?
Never afflict yourself with such reflections as I shall live without honor and never be anybody anywhere. For if to live without hon our be really a misfortune, know that it is not possible for you to fall into misfortune, any more than into vice, through anything that another can do. Is it then of your own doing that you are appointed to the magistracy or invited to feasts? By no means, How then is this to be without hon our? and how do you say that you shall never be anybody, whose part it is to be somebody in those things only which depend upon yourself, and in which it is in your power to be of the highest worth?
But then I can be of no service to my friends. How say you? of no service? Certainly they shall not have money from you, nor will you be able to get them made Roman citizens. But who told you that these things were of those that depend upon ourselves, and were not alien to us? And who is able to give that which be himself has not?
Acquire then, they say, in order that we may possess, Well, if I am able to acquire, without a loss of modesty, or faith, or high-mindedness, show me the way, and I will do it. But if you require me to sacrifice that which I have, which is really good, in order that you may compass what is no good at all, behold how unjust and inconsiderate you are! And is it not better than money, to have faith and modesty in a friend? Then rather help me on my way, and take part with me, than require me to do anything which would compel me to renounce these things.
But, you say, I shall not be bearing my part in the service of my country! Again, what do you take service to consist in? Your country will not be enriched through you with porticos and public baths. And what then? The smith does not supply her with shoes, nor the shoemaker with weapons, but it is enough that every man fulfil his own work, And if you have made one faithful and modest citizen for her, are you then of no service? Wherefore neither shall you be useless to your country.
What place then, you say, shall I hold in the State? Whatever place you are able to hold, guarding still your modesty and faith. But if you cast away these things in order to be of service to the State, of what service do you think you will be to her then, when you are perfected in the contrary qualities?
Let not such considerations as these distress you: “I shall live in discredit, and be nobody anywhere.” For if discredit be an evil, you can no more be involved in evil through another, than in baseness. Is it any business of yours, then, to get power, or to be admitted to an entertainment? By no means. How then, after all, is this discredit? And how is it true that you will be .nobody anywhere; when you ought to be somebody in those things only which are within your own power, in which you may be of the greatest consequence? “But my friends will be unassisted.” What do you mean by unassisted? They will not have money from you; nor will you make them Roman citizens. Who told you, then, that these are among the things within our own power, and not rather the affairs of others? And who can give to another the things which he himself has not? ” Well, but get them, then, that we too may have a share.” If I can get them with the preservation of my own honor and fidelity and self-respect, show me the way, and I will get them; but if you require me to lose my own proper good, that you may gain what is no good, consider how unreasonable and foolish you are. Besides, which would you rather have, a sum of money, or a faithful and honorable friend? Rather assist me, then, to gain this character, than require me to do those things by which I may lose it. Well, but my country, say you, as far as depends upon me, will be unassisted. Here, again, what assistance is this you mean? It will not have porticos nor baths of your providing? And what signifies that? Why, neither does a smith provide it with shoes, nor a shoemaker with arms. It is enough if every one fully performs his own proper business. And were you to supply it with another faithful and honorable citizen, would not he be of use to it? Yes. Therefore neither are you yourself useless to it. “What place, then,” say you, ” shall I hold in the state?” Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your fidelity and honor. But if, by desiring to be useful to that, you lose these, how can you serve your country, when you have become faithless and shameless?
Don’t allow such considerations as these distress you. “I will live in dishonor, and be nobody anywhere.” For, if dishonor is an evil, you can no more be involved in any evil by the means of another, than be engaged in anything base. Is it any business of yours, then, to get power, or to be admitted to an entertainment? By no means. How, then, after all, is this a dishonor? And how is it true that you will be nobody anywhere, when you ought to be somebody in those things only which are in your own control, in which you may be of the greatest consequence? “But my friends will be unassisted.” — What do you mean by unassisted? They will not have money from you, nor will you make them Roman citizens. Who told you, then, that these are among the things in our own control, and not the affair of others? And who can give to another the things which he has not himself? “Well, but get them, then, that we too may have a share.” If I can get them with the preservation of my own honor and fidelity and greatness of mind, show me the way and I will get them; but if you require me to lose my own proper good that you may gain what is not good, consider how inequitable and foolish you are. Besides, which would you rather have, a sum of money, or a friend of fidelity and honor? Rather assist me, then, to gain this character than require me to do those things by which I may lose it. Well, but my country, say you, as far as depends on me, will be unassisted. Here again, what assistance is this you mean? “It will not have porticoes nor baths of your providing.” And what signifies that? Why, neither does a smith provide it with shoes, or a shoemaker with arms. It is enough if everyone fully performs his own proper business. And were you to supply it with another citizen of honor and fidelity, would not he be of use to it? Yes. Therefore neither are you yourself useless to it. “What place, then, say you, will I hold in the state?” Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your fidelity and honor. But if, by desiring to be useful to that, you lose these, of what use can you be to your country when you are become faithless and void of shame.
Οὗτοί σε οἱ διαλογισμοὶ μὴ θλιβέτωσαν «ἄτιμος ἐγὼ βιώσομαι καὶ οὐδεὶς οὐδαμοῦ». εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀτιμία ἐστὶ κακόν, οὐ δύνασαι ἐν κακῷ εἶναι δι’ ἄλλον, οὐ μᾶλλον ἢ ἐν αἰσχρῷ: μή τι οὖν σόν ἐστιν ἔργον τὸ ἀρχῆς τυχεῖν ἢ παραληφθῆναι ἐφ’ ἑστίασιν; οὐδαμῶς. πῶς οὖν ἔτι τοῦτ’ ἔστιν ἀτιμία; πῶς δὲ οὐδεὶς οὐδαμοῦ ἔσῃ, ὃν ἐν μόνοις εἶναί τινα δεῖ τοῖς ἐπὶ σοί, ἐν οἷς ἔξεστί σοι εἶναι πλείστου ἀξίῳ;
ἀλλά σοι οἱ φίλοι ἀβοήθητοι ἔσονται. τί λέγεις τὸ ἀβοήθητοι; οὐχ ἕξουσι παρὰ σοῦ κερμάτιον: οὐδὲ πολίτας ̔Ρωμαίων αὐτοὺς ποιήσεις. τίς οὖν σοι εἶπεν, ὅτι ταῦτα τῶν ἐφ’ ἡμῖν ἐστιν, οὐχὶ δὲ ἀλλότρια ἔργα; τίς δὲ δοῦναι δύναται ἑτέρῳ, ἃ μὴ ἔχει αὐτός; «κτῆσαι οὖν», φησίν, «ἵνα ἡμεῖς ἔχωμεν».
εἰ δύναμαι κτήσασθαι τηρῶν ἐμαυτὸν αἰδήμονα καὶ πιστὸν καὶ μεγαλόφρονα, δείκνυε τὴν ὁδὸν καὶ κτήσομαι. εἰ δ’ ἐμὲ ἀξιοῦτε τὰ ἀγαθὰ τὰ ἐμαυτοῦ ἀπολέσαι, ἵνα ὑμεῖς τὰ μὴ ἀγαθὰ περιποιήσησθε, ὁρᾶτε ὑμεῖς, πῶς ἄνισοί ἐστε καὶ ἀγνώμονες. τί δὲ καὶ βούλεσθε μᾶλλον; ἀργύριον ἢ φίλον πιστὸν καὶ αἰδήμονα; εἰς τοῦτο οὖν μοι μᾶλλον συλλαμβάνετε καὶ μή, δι’ ὧν ἀποβαλῶ αὐτὰ ταῦτα, ἐκεῖνά με πράσσειν ἀξιοῦτε.
«ἀλλ’ ἡ πατρίς, ὅσον ἐπ’ ἐμοί», φησίν, «ἀβοήθητος ἔσται». πάλιν, ποίαν καὶ ταύτην βοήθειαν; στοὰς οὐχ ἕξει διὰ σὲ οὔτε βαλανεῖα. καὶ τί τοῦτο; οὐδὲ γὰρ ὑποδήματα ἔχει διὰ τὸν χαλκέα οὐδ’ ὅπλα διὰ τὸν σκυτέα: ἱκανὸν δέ, ἐὰν ἕκαστος ἐκπληρώσῃ τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ἔργον. εἰ δὲ ἄλλον τινὰ αὐτῇ κατεσκεύαζες πολίτην πιστὸν καὶ αἰδήμονα, οὐδὲν ἂν αὐτὴν ὠφέλεις; «ναί». οὐκοῦν οὐδὲ σὺ αὐτὸς ἀνωφελὴς ἂν εἴης αὐτῇ. «τίνα οὖν ἕξω», φησί, «χώραν ἐν τῇ πόλει;» ἣν ἂν δύνῃ φυλάττων ἅμα τὸν πιστὸν καὶ αἰδήμονα.
εἰ δὲ ἐκείνην ὠφελεῖν βουλόμενος ἀποβαλεῖς ταῦτα, τί ὄφελος ἂν αὐτῇ γένοιο ἀναιδὴς καὶ ἄπιστος ἀποτελεσθείς;