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On Contentedness Of Mind
by [?]

On Contentedness of Mind.[711]

PLUTARCH SENDS GREETING TO PACCIUS.

Sec. I. It was late when I received your letter, asking me to write to you something on contentedness of mind, and on those things in the Timaeus that require an accurate explanation. And it so fell out that at that very time our friend Eros was obliged to set sail at once for Rome, having received a letter from the excellent Fundanus, urging haste according to his wont. And not having as much time as I could have wished to meet your request, and yet not thinking for one moment of letting my messenger go to you entirely empty-handed, I copied out the notes that I had chanced to make on contentedness of mind. For I thought that you did not desire this discourse merely to be treated to a subject handled in fine style, but for the real business of life. And I congratulate you that, though you have friendships with princes, and have as much forensic reputation as anybody, yet you are not in the same plight as the tragic Merops, nor have you like him by the felicitations of the multitude been induced to forget the sufferings of humanity; but you remember, what you have often heard, that a patrician’s slipper[712] is no cure for the gout, nor a costly ring for a whitlow, nor a diadem for the headache. For how can riches, or fame, or power at court help us to ease of mind or a calm life, unless we enjoy them when present, but are not for ever pining after them when absent? And what else causes this but the long exercise and practice of reason, which, when the unreasoning and emotional part of the soul breaks out of bounds, curbs it quickly, and does not allow it to be carried away headlong from its actual position? And as Xenophon[713] advised that we should remember and honour the gods most especially in prosperity, that so, when we should be in any strait, we might confidently call upon them as already our well-wishers and friends; so sensible men would do well before trouble comes to meditate on remedies how to bear it, that they may be the more efficacious from being ready for use long before. For as savage dogs are excited at every sound, and are only soothed by a familiar voice, so also it is not easy to quiet the wild passions of the soul, unless familiar and well-known arguments be at hand to check its excitement.

Sec. II. He then that said, that the man that wished to have an easy mind ought to have little to do either public or private, first of all makes ease of mind a very costly article for us, if it is to be bought at the price of doing nothing, as if he should advise every sick person,

“Lie still, poor wretch, in bed.”[714]

And indeed stupor is a bad remedy for the body against despair,[715] nor is he any better physician of the soul who removes its trouble and anxiety by recommending a lazy and soft life and a leaving our friends and relations and country in the lurch. In the next place, it is false that those that have little to do are easy in mind. For then women would be easier in mind than men, since they mostly stay at home in inactivity, and even now-a-days it is as Hesiod says,[716]

“The North Wind comes not near a soft-skinned maiden;”

yet griefs and troubles and unrest, proceeding from jealousy or superstition or ambition or vanity, inundate the women’s part of the house with unceasing flow. And Laertes, though he lived for twenty years a solitary life in the country,

“With an old woman to attend on him,
Who duly set on board his meat and drink,”[717]