In any project, consider the entire process and the steps it requires before you begin it. Otherwise you’ll start off eagerly enough, but quit when it’s time for the gritty work.
Say you want to win a gold medal at the Olympics. That’s certainly a fine ambition. But first review the full sequence of events, and then go for it if you still want to. There’s tremendous discipline required, a careful diet, rigorous training on a schedule, regardless of weather; your large or small vices must be given up; you have to turn yourself over to your coach as a sick man would to his doctor. And this is a matter of years, not hours or days. Then in each stage of competition you may sustain painful injuries, eat a lot of dust, take verbal abuse – and still lose. Taken all that into account? If you have, and you still want to go for the gold, go for it. Otherwise, you’ll act like a child who plays at being a detective one minute, an astronaut or a musician the next, depending on what he’s seen on television recently. The same way you’re a businessman one day, an artist the next, maybe a philosopher today – but absolutely nothing with your whole being. You ape the motions of whatever you’ve seen, and one thing after another catches your fancy. You’ve never begun anything with careful deliberation, after carefully reviewing the entire process involved, but rather you’ve started rashly, with what you thought was a cool determination.
Similarly, some have been exposed to philosophy, and want to be philosophers too – instant philosophers. Friend, consider the entire process and what it requires, and then decide whether you’re up to it. If you wanted to enter the pentathlon, you would have to consider the strength of your limbs and your wind; different persons are cut out for different things. Do you think you can go on acting the way you have, and be a philosopher? Do you think you can eat and drink the way you have, and be angry and quick to take offense? You’ll have to forego your ease, work hard, leave people behind, be despised by menials, be laughed at, and get crumbs at best when it comes to recognition and position – in all affairs. Consider these costs, and see if you’re willing to pay them to gain peace, freedom and tranquillity. If you’re not willing, stay away from philosophy.
Don’t be like a child who’s a philosopher one minute, then a movie star, then a bureaucrat. That’s inconsistent. You’ve got to be one person, good or bad. You take care of your own will and attitudes, or you take care of external things. You apply yourself to what’s inside you, or to things outside. You’re a philosopher, or you’re not.
In each separate thing that you do, consider the matters which come first and those which follow after, and only then approach the thing itself. Otherwise, at the start you will come to it enthusiastically, because you have never reflected upon any of the subsequent steps, but later on, when some difficulties appear, you will give up disgracefully. Do you wish to win an Olympic victory? So do I, by the gods! for it is a fine thing. But consider the matters which come before that, and those which follow after, and only when you have done that, put your hand to the task. You have to submit to discipline, follow a strict diet, give up sweet cakes, train under compulsion, at a fixed hour, in heat or in cold; you must not drink cold water, nor wine just whenever you feel like it; you must have turned yourself over to your trainer precisely as you would to a physician. Then when the contest comes on, you have to “dig in” beside your opponent, and sometimes dislocate your wrist, sprain your ankle, swallow quantities of sand, sometimes take a scourging, and along with all that get beaten. After you have considered all these points, go on into the games, if you still wish to do so; otherwise, you will be turning back like children. Sometimes they play wrestlers, again gladiators, again they blow trumpets, and then act a play. So you too are now an athlete, now a gladiator, then a rhetorician, then a philosopher, yet with your whole soul nothing; but like an ape you imitate whatever you see, and one thing after another strikes your fancy. For you have never gone out after anything with circumspection, nor after you had examined it all over, but you act at haphazard and half-heartedly.
In the same way, when some people have seen a philosopher and have heard someone speaking like Euphrates (though, indeed, who can speak like him?), they wish to be philosophers themselves. Man, consider first the nature of the business, and then learn your own natural ability, if you are able to bear it. Do you wish to be a contender in the pentathlon, or a wrestler? Look to your arms, your thighs, see what your loins are like. For one man has a natural talent for one thing, another for another. Do you suppose that you can eat in the same fashion, drink in the same fashion, give way to impulse and to irritation, just as you do now? You must keep vigils, work hard, abandon your own people, be despised by a paltry slave, be laughed to scorn by those who meet you, in everything get the worst of it, in honour, in office, in court, in every paltry affair. Look these drawbacks over carefully, if you are willing at the price of these things to secure tranquillity, freedom and calm. Otherwise, do not approach philosophy; don’t act like a child—now a philosopher, later on a tax-gatherer, then a rhetorician, then a procurator of Caesar. These things do not go together. You must be one person, either good or bad; you must labour to improve either your own governing principle or externals; you must work hard either on the inner man, or on things outside; that is, play either the rôle of a philosopher or else that of a layman.
In everything you do consider what comes first and what follows, and so approach it. Otherwise you will come to it with a good heart at first because you have not reflected on any of the consequences, and afterwards, when difficulties have appeared, you will desist to your shame. Do you wish to win at Olympia? So do I, by the gods, for it is a fine thing. But consider the first steps to it, and the consequences, and so lay your hand to the work. You must submit to discipline, eat to order, touch no sweets, train under compulsion, at a fixed hour, in heat and cold, drink no cold water, nor wine, except by order; you must hand yourself over completely to your trainer as you would to a physician, and then when the contest comes you must risk getting hacked, and sometimes dislocate your hand, twist your ankle, swallow plenty of sand, sometimes get a flogging, and with all this suffer defeat. When you have considered all this well, then enter on the athlete’s course, if you still wish it. If you act without thought you will be behaving like children, who one day play at wrestlers, another day at gladiators, now sound the trumpet, and next strut the stage. Like them you will be now an athlete, now a gladiator, then orator, then philosopher, but nothing with all your soul. Like an ape, you imitate every sight you see, and one thing after another takes your fancy. When you undertake a thing you do it casually and halfheartedly, instead of considering it and looking at it all round. In the same way some people, when they see a philosopher and hear a man speaking like Euphrates (and indeed who can speak as he can? ), wish to be philosophers themselves.
Man, consider first what it is you are undertaking; then look at your own powers and see if you can bear it. Do you want to compete in the pentathlon or in wrestling? Look to your arms, your thighs, see what your loins are like. For different men are born for different tasks. Do you suppose that if you do this you can live as you do now—eat and drink as you do now, indulge desire and discontent just as before? Nay, you must sit up late, work hard, abandon your own people, be looked down on by a mere slave, be ridiculed by those who meet you, get the worst of it in everything—in honour, in office, in justice, in every possible thing. This is what you have to consider: whether you are willing to pay this price for peace of mind, freedom, tranquillity. If not, do not come near; do not be, like the children, first a philosopher, then a tax-collector, then an orator, then one of Caesar’s procurators. These callings do not agree. You must be one man, good or bad; you must develop either your Governing Principle, or your outward endowments; you must study either your inner man, or outward things—in a word, you must choose between the position of a philosopher and that of a mere outsider.
In every act observe the things which come first, and those which follow it; and so proceed to the act. If you do not, at first you will approach it with alacrity, without having thought of the things which will follow; but afterward, when certain base (ugly) things have shown themselves, you will be ashamed. A man wishes to conquer at the Olympic games. I also wish indeed, for it is a fine thing. But observe both the things which come first, and the things which follow; and then begin the act. You must do everything according to rule, eat according to strict orders; abstain from delicacies; exercise yourself as you are bid at appointed times, in heat, in cold; you must not drink cold water, nor wine as you choose. In a word, you must deliver yourself up to the exercise master as you do to the physician, and then proceed to the contest. And sometimes you will strain the hand, put the ankle out of joint, swallow much dust, sometimes be flogged, and after all this be defeated. When you have considered all this, if you still choose, go to the contest: if you do not, you will behave like children, who at one time play at wrestlers, another time as flute players, again as gladiators, then as trumpeters, then as tragic actors: so you also will be at one time an athlete, at another a gladiator, then a rhetorician, then a philosopher, but with your whole soul you will be nothing at all; but like an ape you imitate everything that you see, and one thing after another pleases you. For you have not undertaken anything with consideration, nor have you surveyed it well; but carelessly and with cold desire.
Thus some who have seen a philosopher and having heard one speak, as Euphrates speaks—and who can speak as he does? They wish to be philosophers themselves also.
My man, first of all consider what kind of thing it is: and then examine your own nature, if you are able to sustain the character. Do you wish to be a pentathlete or a wrestler? Look at your arms, your thighs, examine your loins. For different men are formed by nature for different things. Do you think that if you do these things, you can eat in the same manner, drink in the same manner, and in the same manner loathe certain things? You must pass sleepless nights; endure toil; go away from your kinsmen; be despised by a slave; in everything have the inferior part, in honor, in office, in the courts of justice, in every little matter. Consider these things, if you would exchange for them, freedom from passions, liberty, tranquility. If not, take care that, like little children, you be not now a philosopher, then a servant of the publicani, then a rhetorician, then a procurator (manager) for Caesar. These things are not consistent. You must be one man, either good or bad. You must either cultivate your own ruling faculty, or external things; you must either exercise your skill on internal things or on external things; that is, you must either maintain the position of a philosopher or that of a common person.
Of every work you take in hand to do, mark well the conditions and the consequences, and so enter upon it. For if you do not this, you will at first set out eagerly, not regarding what is to follow, but in the end thereof, if any difficulties have arisen, you will leave it off with shame.
So you wish to conquer in the Olympic games, my friend? And I too, by the Gods, and a fine thing it would be! But first mark the conditions and the consequences, and then set to work. You will have to put yourself under discipline; to eat by rule; to avoid cakes and sweetmeats; to take exercise at the appointed hour whether you like it or no, in cold and heat; to abstain from cold drinks and from wine at your will; in a word, to give yourself over to the trainer as to a physician. Then in the conflict itself you are likely enough to dislocate your wrist or twist your ankle, to swallow a great deal of dust, to be severely thrashed, and, after all these things, to be defeated.
If, having considered these circumstances, you are still in the mind to enter for the Olympic prize, then do so. But without consideration, you will turn from one thing to another like a child, who now plays the wrestler, now the flute player, now the gladiator, then sounds the bugle call, or declaims like an actor; and so you too will be first an athlete, then a gladiator, then an orator, then a philosopher, and nothing with your whole soul; but as an ape you will mimic every sight you see, and flatter yourself with one thing after another. For you approached nothing with consideration, nor with systematic diligence, but lightly, and with but a cold desire.
And thus some men, after having seen a philosopher and heard discourse like that of Euphrates (yet who indeed can say that any discourse is like his?) desire that they also may become philosophers.
But O man — first consider what it really is that you are desiring to do, and then inquire of your own nature, whether you have power to support the undertaking. Do you desire to become a pentathlos or a wrestler? Then scan your arms and your thighs and try the strength of your loins. For nature endows different men with different capacities.
And do you think that you can be a sage and at the same time continue to eat and drink and indulge your desires and be fastidious, just as before? Nay verily, for you must watch and labour, and withdraw yourself from your household and be despised by any serving-boy and be ridiculed by your neighbors, and you must take an inferior position in all things, in reputation, in authority, in courts of justice, in dealings of every kind.
Consider these things; whether you are willing at such a price to gain serenity, freedom, and immunity from vexation. And if not, renounce that aim at once, and do not like a child at play be now for a little a philosopher, then a tax-gatherer, then a public speaker, then a procurator of the Empire. For these things do not agree among themselves, and, good or bad, it behoves you to be one man. You must either cultivate external things or your own essential part, you must show your skill in the management of either your outward or your inward life — in short, you must take up the position either of a sensualist or of a sage.
In every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit indeed, careless of the consequences, and when these are developed, you will shamefully desist. “I would conquer at the Olympic games.” But consider what precedes and follows, and then, if it be for your advantage, engage in the affair. You must conform to rules, submit to a diet, refrain from dainties; exercise your body, whether you choose it or not, at a stated hour, in heat and cold; you must drink no cold water, and sometimes no wine, – in a word, you must give yourself up to your trainer as to a physician. Then, in the combat, you may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your ankle, swallow abundance of dust, receive stripes [for negligence], and, after all, lose the victory. When you have reckoned up all this, if your inclination still holds, set about the combat. Otherwise, take notice, you will behave like children who sometimes play wrestlers, sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes act a tragedy, when they have seen and admired these shows. Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a gladiator; now a philosopher, now an orator; but nothing in earnest. Like an ape you mimic all you see, and one thing after another is sure to please you, but is out of favor as soon as it becomes familiar. For you have never entered upon anything considerately, nor after having surveyed and tested the whole matter; but carelessly, and with a half-way zeal. Thus some, when they have seen a philosopher, and heard a man speaking like Euphrates, – though indeed who can speak like him? – have a mind to be philosophers too. Consider first, man, what the matter is, and what your own nature is able to bear. If you would be a wrestler, consider your shoulders, your back, your thighs; for different persons are made for different things. Do you think that you can act as you do, and be a philosopher; that you can eat, drink, be angry, be discontented, as you are now? You must watch, you must labor, you must get the better of certain appetites; must quit your acquaintance, be despised by your servant, be laughed at by those you meet; come off worse than others in everything, – in offices, in honors, before tribunals. When you have fully considered all these things, approach, if you please; if, by parting with them, you have a mind to purchase serenity, freedom, and tranquillity. If not, do not come hither; do not, like children, be now a philosopher, then a publican, then an orator, and then one of Caesar’s officers. These things are not consistent. You must be one man either good or bad. You must cultivate either your own Reason or else externals, apply yourself either to things within or without you; that is, be either a philosopher, or one of the mob.
In every affair consider what precedes and follows, and then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit; but not having thought of the consequences, when some of them appear you will shamefully desist. “I would conquer at the Olympic games.” But consider what precedes and follows, and then, if it is for your advantage, engage in the affair. You must conform to rules, submit to a diet, refrain from dainties; exercise your body, whether you choose it or not, at a stated hour, in heat and cold; you must drink no cold water, nor sometimes even wine. In a word, you must give yourself up to your master, as to a physician. Then, in the combat, you may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your ankle, swallow dust, be whipped, and, after all, lose the victory. When you have evaluated all this, ifr having viewed the whole matter on all sides, or made any scrutiny into it, but rashly, and with a cold inclination. Thus some, when they have seen a philosopher and heard a man speaking like Euphrates (though, indeed, who can speak like him?), have a mind to be philosophers too. Consider first, man, what the matter is, and what your own nature is able to bear. If you would be a wrestler, consider your shoulders, your back, your thighs; for different persons are made for different things. Do you think that you can act as you do, and be a philosopher? That you can eat and drink, and be angry and discontented as you are now? You must watch, you must labor, you must get the better of certain appetites, must quit your acquaintance, be despised by your servant, be laughed at by those you meet; come off worse than others in everything, in magistracies, in honors, in courts of judicature. When you have considered all these things round, approach, if you please; if, by parting with them, you have a mind to purchase apathy, freedom, and tranquillity. If not, don’t come here; don’t, like children, be one while a philosopher, then a publican, then an orator, and then one of Caesar’s officers. These things are not consistent. You must be one man, either good or bad. You must cultivate either your own ruling faculty or externals, and apply yourself either to things within or without you; that is, be either a philosopher, or one of the vulgar.
Ἑκάστου ἔργου σκόπει τὰ καθηγούμενα καὶ τὰ ἀκόλουθα αὐτοῦ καὶ οὕτως ἔρχου ἐπ’ αὐτό. εἰ δὲ μή, τὴν μὲν πρώτην προθύμως ἥξεις ἅτε μηδὲν τῶν ἑξῆς ἐντεθυμημένος, ὕστερον δὲ ἀναφανέντων δυσχερῶν τινων αἰσχρῶς ἀποστήσῃ. θέλεις Ὀλύμπια νικῆσαι;
κἀγώ, νὴ τοὺς θεούς: κομψὸν γάρ ἐστιν. ἀλλὰ σκόπει τὰ καθηγούμενα καὶ τὰ ἀκόλουθα καὶ οὕτως ἅπτου τοῦ ἔργου. δεῖ σ’ εὐτακτεῖν, ἀναγκοτροφεῖν, ἀπέχεσθαι πεμμάτων, γυμνάζεσθαι πρὸς ἀνάγκην, ἐν ὥρᾳ τεταγμένῃ, ἐν καύματι, ἐν ψύχει, μὴ ψυχρὸν πίνειν, μὴ οἶνον, ὡς ἔτυχεν, ἁπλῶς ὡς ἰατρῷ παραδεδωκέναι σεαυτὸν τῷ ἐπιστάτῃ, εἶτα ἐν τῷ ἀγῶνι παρορύσσεσθαι, ἔστι δὲ ὅτε χεῖρα ἐκβαλεῖν, σφυρὸν στρέψαι, πολλὴν ἁφὴν καταπιεῖν, ἔσθ’ ὅτε μαστιγωθῆναι καὶ μετὰ τούτων πάντων νικηθῆναι.
ταῦτα ἐπισκεψάμενος, ἂν ἔτι θέλῃς, ἔρχου ἐπὶ τὸ ἀθλεῖν. εἰ δὲ μή, ὡς τὰ παιδία ἀναστραφήσῃ, ἃ νῦν μὲν παλαιστὰς παίζει, νῦν δὲ μονομάχους, νῦν δὲ σαλπίζει, εἶτα τραγῳδεῖ: οὕτω καὶ σὺ νῦν μὲν ἀθλητής, νῦν δὲ μονομάχος, εἶτα ῥήτωρ, εἶτα φιλόσοφος, ὅλῃ δὲ τῇ ψυχῇ οὐδέν: ἀλλ’ ὡς πίθηκος πᾶσαν θέαν, ἣν ἂν ἴδῃς, μιμῇ καὶ ἄλλο ἐξ ἄλλου σοι ἀρέσκει. οὐ γὰρ μετὰ σκέψεως ἦλθες ἐπί τι οὐδὲ περιοδεύσας, ἀλλ’ εἰκῇ καὶ κατὰ ψυχρὰν ἐπιθυμίαν.
οὕτω θεασάμενοί τινες φιλόσοφον καὶ ἀκούσαντες οὕτω τινὸς λέγοντος, ὡς Εὐφράτης λέγει ̔καίτοι τίς οὕτω δύναται εἰπεῖν, ὡς ἐκεῖνος;
θέλουσι καὶ αὐτοὶ φιλοσοφεῖν. ἄνθρωπε, πρῶτον ἐπίσκεψαι, ὁποῖόν ἐστι τὸ πρᾶγμα: εἶτα καὶ τὴν σεαυτοῦ φύσιν κατάμαθε, εἰ δύνασαι βαστάσαι. πένταθλος εἶναι βούλει ἢ παλαιστής; ἴδε σεαυτοῦ τοὺς βραχίονας, τοὺς μηρούς, τὴν ὀσφὺν κατάμαθε.
ἄλλος γὰρ πρὸς ἄλλο πέφυκε. δοκεῖς, ὅτι ταῦτα ποιῶν ὡσαύτως δύνασαι ἐσθίειν, ὡσαύτως πίνειν, ὁμοίως ὀρέγεσθαι, ὁμοίως δυσαρεστεῖν; ἀγρυπνῆσαι δεῖ, πονῆσαι, ἀπὸ τῶν οἰκείων ἀπελθεῖν, ὑπὸ παιδαρίου καταφρονηθῆναι, ὑπὸ τῶν ἀπαντώντων καταγελασθῆναι, ἐν παντὶ ἧττον ἔχειν, ἐν τιμῇ, ἐν ἀρχῇ, ἐν δίκῃ, ἐν πραγματίῳ παντί.
ταῦτα ἐπίσκεψαι. εἰ θέλεις ἀντικαταλλάξασθαι τούτων ἀπάθειαν, ἐλευθερίαν, ἀταραξίαν: εἰ δὲ μή, μὴ προσάγαγε. μὴ ὡς τὰ παιδία νῦν φιλόσοφος, ὕστερον δὲ τελώνης, εἶτα ῥήτωρ, εἶτα ἐπίτροπος Καίσαρος. ταῦτα οὐ συμφωνεῖ. ἕνα σε δεῖ ἄνθρωπον ἢ ἀγαθὸν ἢ κακὸν εἶναι: ἢ τὸ ἡγεμονικόν σε δεῖ ἐξεργάζεσθαι τὸ σαυτοῦ ἢ τὸ ἐκτὸς ἢ περὶ τὰ ἔσω φιλοτεχνεῖν ἢ περὶ τὰ ἔξω: τοῦτ’ ἔστιν ἢ φιλοσόφου τάξιν ἐπέχειν ἢ ἰδιώτου.