07 September 2013

And Best of All, the Quiet

Zeno indeed, when he learned that his only remaining ship had been engulfed with its cargo by the sea, exclaimed: "Well done, Fortune! thus to confine me to a threadbare cloak" and a philosopher's life; while a man not wholly infatuated or mad for the mob would not, I think, on being confined to an island, reproach Fortune, but would commend her for taking away from him all his restlessness and aimless roving, wanderings in foreign lands and perils at sea and tumults in the market place, and giving him a life that was settled, leisurely, undistracted, and truly his own, describing with centre and radius a circle containing the necessities that meet his needs. For what island is there that does not afford a house, a walk, a bath, fish and hares for those who wish to indulge in hunting and sport? And best of all, the quiet for which others thirst, you can repeatedly enjoy. But at home, as men play at draughts and retire from the public eye, informers and busybodies track them down and hunt them out of their suburban estates and parks and bring them back by force to the market place and court; whereas it is not the persons who plague us, who come to beg or borrow money, to entreat us to go surety for them or help in canvassing an election, that sail to an island, it is the best of our connexions and intimates that do so out of friendship and affection, while the rest of life, if one desires leisure and has learned to use it, is left inviolate and sacred. He that calls those persons happy who run about in the world outside and use up most of their lives at inns and ferry-stations is like the man who fancies that the planets enjoy greater felicity than the fixed stars. And yet each planet, revolving in a single sphere, as on an island, preserves its station; for "the Sun will not transgress his bounds," says Heracleitus; "else the Erinyes, ministers of Justice, will find him out."

--Plutarch, On Exile

No comments:

Post a Comment