Consult and deliberate before you act, that thou mayest not commit foolish actions. For ‘t is the part of a miserable man to speak and to act without reflection. But do that which will not afflict thee afterwards, nor oblige thee to repentance.
With no desire to deprive Mr. Bok of his bread, I wish to call attention to Pythagoras, who lived a little more than five hundred years before Christ.
Even at that time the world was old. Memphis, which was built four thousand years ago, had begun to crumble into ruins. Troy was buried deep in the dust which an American citizen of German birth was to remove. Nineveh and Babylon were dying the death that success always brings, and the star of empire was preparing to westward wend its way.
Pythagoras ushered in the Golden Age of Greece. All the great writers whom he immediately preceded, quote him and refer to him. Some admire him; others are loftily critical; most of them are a little jealous; and a few use him as a horrible example, calling him a poseur, a pedant, a learned sleight-of-hand man, a bag of books.
Trial by newspaper was not invented in the time of Pythagoras; but personal vilification has been popular since Balaam talked gossip with his vis-a-vis.
Anaxagoras, who gave up his wealth to the State that he might be free, and who was the teacher of Pericles, was a pupil of Pythagoras, and used often to mention him.
In this way Pericles was impressed by the Pythagorean philosophy, and very often quotes it in his speeches. Socrates gave Pythagoras as an authority on the simple life, and stated that he was willing to follow him in anything save his injunction to keep silence. Socrates wanted silence optional; whereas Pythagoras required each of his pupils to live for a year without once asking a question or making an explanation. In aggravated cases he made the limit five years.
In many ways Pythagoras reminds us of our friend Muldoon, both being beneficent autocrats, and both proving their sincerity by taking their own medicine. Pythagoras said, “I will never ask another to do what I have not done, and am not willing to do myself.”
To this end he was once challenged by his three hundred pupils to remain silent for a year. He accepted the defi, not once defending himself from the criticisms and accusations that were rained upon him, not once complaining, nor issuing an order. Tradition has it, however, that he made averages good later on, when the year of expiation was ended.
There are two reasonably complete lives of Pythagoras, one by Diogenes Laertius, and another by Iamblichus. Personally, I prefer the latter, as Iamblichus, as might be inferred from his name, makes Pythagoras a descendant of AEneas, who was a son of Neptune. This is surely better than the abrupt and somewhat sensational statement to the effect that his father was Apollo.
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The birthplace of Pythagoras was Samos, an isle of Greece. He was born of wealthy but honest parents, who were much in love with each other–a requisite, says Pythagoras, for parentage on its highest plane. It is probable that Pythagoras was absolutely correct in his hypothesis.
That he was a very noble specimen of manhood–physically and mentally–there is no doubt. He was tall, lithe, dignified, commanding and silent by nature, realizing fully that a handsome man can never talk as well as he looks.
He was quite aware of his physical graces, and in following up the facts of his early life, he makes the statement that his father was a sea-captain and trader. He then incidentally adds that the best results are obtained for posterity where a man is absent from his family eleven months in the year. This is an axiom agreed upon by many modern philosophers, few of whom, however, live up to their ideals. Aristophanes, who was on friendly terms with some of the disciples of Pythagoras, suggested in one of his plays that the Pythagorean domestic time-limit should be increased at least a month for the good of all concerned.