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Others have imagined two divine principles, opposite and antagonistic—the one friendly, the other hostile, to men.
Freedom of action, however, seems to involve the existence of evil. If any power of selection be left us, much must depend on the choice we make. In the very nature of things, two and two cannot make five. Epictetus imagines Jupiter addressing man as follows: "If it had been possible to make your body and your property free from liability to injury, I would have done so.
As this could not be, I have given you a small portion of myself.”
This divine gift it is for us to use wisely. It is, in fact, our most valuable treasure. “ The soul is a much better thing than all the others which you
Can you then show me in what way you have taken care of it? For it is not likely that you, who are so wise a man, inconsiderately and carelessly allow
the most valuable thing that you possess to be neglected and to perish.”
Moreover, even if evil cannot be altogether avoided, it is no doubt true that not only whether the life we lead be good and useful, or evil and useless, but also whether it be happy or unhappy, is very much in our own power, and depends greatly on ourselves. Time alone relieves the foolish from sorrow, but reason the wise,” and no one was ever yet made utterly miserable excepting by himself. We are, if not the masters, at any rate almost the creators of ourselves. With most of us it is not so much
great sorrows, disease, or death, but rather the little “ daily dyings” which cloud over the sunshine of life. Many of our troubles are insignificant in themselves, and might easily be avoided !
How happy home might generally be made but for foolish quarrels, or misunderstandings, as they are well named ! It is our own fault if we are querulous or ill-humoured; nor need we, though this is less easy, allow ourselves to be made unhappy by the querulousness or illhumours of others.
Much of what we suffer we have brought on ourselves, if not by actual fault, at least by ignorance or thoughtlessness. Too often we think only of the happiness of the moment, and sacrifice that of the life. Troubles comparatively seldom come to us, it is we who go to them. Many of us fritter our life away. La Bruyère says that “most men spend much of their lives in making the rest miserable ;” or, as Goethe puts it:
6 Careworn man has, in all ages,
Sown vanity to reap despair.” Not only do we suffer much in the anticipation of evil, as “Noah lived many years under the affliction of a flood, and Jerusalem was taken unto Jeremy before it was besieged,” but we often distress ourselves greatly in the apprehension of misfortunes which after all never happen at all. We should do our best and wait calmly the result. We often hear of people breaking down from overwork, but in nine cases out of ten they are really suffering from worry or anxiety.
. “Nos maux moraux," says Rousseau, 'sont tous dans l'opinion, hors un seul, qui est le crime; et celui-la dépend de nous : nos maux physiques nous détruisent, ou se détruisent. Le temps, ou la mort, sont nos remèdes."
“ Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven.” 1 This, however, applies to the grown up.
With children of course it is different. It is customary, but I think it is a mistake, to speak of happy childhood. Children are often over-anxious and acutely sensitive. Man ought to be man and master of his fate ; but children are at the mercy of those around them. Mr. Rarey, the great horse-tamer, has told us that he has known an angry word raise the pulse of a horse ten beats in a minute. Think then how it must affect a child !
It is small blame to the young if they are over-anxious; but it is a danger to be striven against. “The terrors of the storm are chiefly felt in the parlour or the cabin.”ı
To save ourselves from imaginary, or at any rate problematical, evils, we often incur real suffering. “The man,” said Epicurus, “who is not content with little is content with nothing.” How often do we “labour for that which satisfieth not." More than we use is more than we need, and only a burden to the bearer. We most of us give ourselves an immense amount of useless trouble ; encumber ourselves, as it were, on the journey of life with a dead weight of unnecessary baggage; and as “a man maketh his train