Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.
For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war. [Funeral Oration of Pericles]”
You that live in my ancestral Thebes, behold this Oedipus,- him who knew the famous riddles and was a man most masterful; not a citizen who did not look with envy on his lot- see him now and see the breakers of misfortune swallow him! Look upon that last day always. Count no mortal happy till he has passed the final limit of his life secure from pain.
And this, too, affords no small occasion for anxieties – if you are
bent on assuming a pose and never reveal yourself to anyone frankly, in
the fashion of many who live a false life that is all made up for show;
for it is torturous to be constantly watching oneself and be fearful of
being caught out of our usual role. And we are never free from concern if
we think that every time anyone looks at us he is always taking-our
measure; for many things happen that strip off our pretence against our
will, and, though all this attention to self is successful, yet the life
of those who live under a mask cannot be happy and without anxiety. But
how much pleasure there is in simplicity that is pure, in itself
unadorned, and veils no part of its character! Yet even such a life as this
does run some risk of scorn, if everything lies open to everybody; for there
are those who disdain whatever has become too familiar. But neither does
virtue run any risk of being despised when she is brought close to the eyes,
and it is better to be scorned by reason of simplicity than tortured by perpetual
For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind
that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast – a mind that is placed
beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue
the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass
of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the
highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add
any part to it?
A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be
attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from
deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no
joys greater than his inner joys.
True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence
upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to
rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so
wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within
our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be,
without wishing for what he has not.
Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present.
Whatever can make life truly happy is absolutely good in its own right because it cannot be warped into evil From whence then comes error In that while all men wish for a happy life they mistake the means for the thing itself and while they fancy themselves in pursuit of it they are flying from it for when the sum of happiness consists in solid tranquillity and an unembarrassed confidence therein they are ever collecting causes of disquiet and not only carry burthens but drag them painfully along through the rugged and deceitful path of life so that they still withdraw themselves from the good effect proposed the more pains they take the more business they have upon their hands instead of advancing they are retrograde and as it happens in a labyrinth their very speed puzzles and confounds them