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Whether "Live Unknown" Be A Wise Precept
by [?]

Sec. IV. But if you exclude all knowledge about life, like putting the lights out at a supper party, that you may go from pleasure to pleasure undetected,[900] then “live unknown.” Certainly if I am going to pass my life with the harlot Hedeia, or my days with Leontium, and spurn at virtue, and put my summum bonum in sensual gratifications, these are ends that require darkness and night, on these oblivion and ignorance are rightly cast. But if any one in nature sings the praises of the deity and justice and providence, and in morals upholds the law and society and the constitution, and in the constitution what is honourable and not expedient, why should he “live unknown”? Is it that he should instruct nobody, inspire in nobody an emulation for virtue, and be to nobody a pattern in good?[901] Had Themistocles been unknown at Athens, Greece would not have repelled Xerxes; had Camillus been unknown at Rome, Rome would not have remained a state; had Plato been unknown to Dion, Sicily would not have won its freedom. And as light, I take it, makes us not only visible but useful to one another, so knowledge gives not only glory but impetus to virtue. Epaminondas in obscurity up to his fortieth year was no use to the Thebans, but when his merits became known and he was put into power, he saved his state from ruin, and liberated Greece from slavery, making his abilities efficacious in emergency through his reputation like the bright shining of a light. For Sophocles’ words,

“Brightly shines brass in use, but when unused
It groweth dull in time, and mars the house,”[902]

are also appropriate to the character of a man, which gets rusty and senile by not mixing in affairs but living in obscurity. For mute inglorious ease, and a sedentary life devoted to leisure, not only injure the body but also the soul: and as hidden waters overshadowed and stagnant get foul because they have no outlet, so the innate powers of unruffled lives, that neither imbibe nor pass on anything, even if they had any useful element in them once, seem to be effete and wasted.

Sec. V. Have you never noticed how when night comes on a tired languor seizes the body, and inactive torpor overpowers the soul, and reason shrinks within itself like a fire going out, and feeling quite worn out is gently agitated by disordered fancies, only just indicating that the man is alive? But when the sun rises and scares away deceitful dreams, and brings on as it were the everyday world[903] and with its light rouses and stimulates the thoughts and actions of everybody, then, as Democritus says, “men form new ideas for the day,” and betake themselves to their various pursuits with mutual impetuosity, as if drawn by a strong impulse.

Sec. VI. And I think that life itself, and the way we come into the world, is so ordained by the deity that we should know one another. For everyone comes into this great universe obscure and unknown casually and by degrees, but when he mixes with his fellows and grows to maturity he shines forth, and becomes well-known instead of obscure, and conspicuous instead of unknown. For knowledge is not the road to being, as some say, but being to knowledge, for being does not create but only exhibits things, as death is not the reducing of existence to non-existence, but rather the result of dissolution is obscurity. So people considering the Sun as Apollo according to hereditary and ancient institutions, call him Delius[904] and Pythius; whereas the lord of the world of darkness, whether god or demon, they call Hades[905] (for when we die we go into an unseen and invisible place), and the lord of dark night and idle sleep. And I think our ancestors called man himself by a word meaning light,[906] because by their relationship to light all have implanted in them a strong and vehement desire to know and to be known. And some philosophers think that the soul itself is light in its essence, inferring so on other grounds and because it can least endure ignorance about facts, and hates[907] everything obscure, and is disturbed at everything dark, which inspires fear and suspicion in it, whereas light is so dear and welcome to it that it thinks nothing otherwise delightful bearable without it, as indeed light makes every pleasure pastime and enjoyment gay and cheerful, like the application of some sweet and general flavour. But the man who thrusts himself into obscurity, and wraps himself up in darkness and buries himself alive, is like one who is dissatisfied with his birth, and renounces his being.