On Anger, Book II, XII

“Wickedness,” says our adversary, “must be removed from the system of nature, if you wish to remove anger: neither of which things can be done.”

In the first place, it is possible for a man not to be cold, although according to the system of nature it may be wintertime, nor yet to suffer from heat, although it be summer according to the almanac.

He may be protected against the inclement time of the year by dwelling in a favoured spot, or he may have so trained his body to endurance that it feels neither heat nor cold.

Next, reverse this saying:⁠—You must remove anger from your mind before you can take virtue into the same, because vices and virtues cannot combine, and none can at the same time be both an angry man and a good man, any more than he can be both sick and well. “It is not possible,” says he, “to remove anger altogether from the mind, nor does human nature admit of it.”

Yet there is nothing so hard and difficult that the mind of man cannot overcome it, and with which unremitting study will not render him familiar, nor are there any passions so fierce and independent that they cannot be tamed by discipline.

The mind can carry out whatever orders it gives itself: some have succeeded in never smiling: some have forbidden themselves wine, sexual intercourse, or even drink of all kinds.

Some, who are satisfied with short hours of rest, have learned to watch for long periods without weariness.

Men have learned to run upon the thinnest ropes even when slanting, to carry huge burdens, scarcely within the compass of human strength, or to dive to enormous depths and suffer themselves to remain under the sea without any chance of drawing breath.

There are a thousand other instances in which application has conquered all obstacles, and proved that nothing which the mind has set itself to endure is difficult.

The men whom I have just mentioned gain either no reward or one that is unworthy of their unwearied application; for what great thing does a man gain by applying his intellect to walking upon a tight rope? or to placing great burdens upon his shoulders? or to keeping sleep from his eyes? or to reaching the bottom of the sea? and yet their patient labour brings all these things to pass for a trifling reward.

Shall not we then call in the aid of patience, we whom such a prize awaits, the unbroken calm of a happy life?

How great a blessing is it to escape from anger, that chief of all evils, and therewith from frenzy, ferocity, cruelty, and madness, its attendants?