On the Firmness of the Wise Person XIV

Such madness possesses some men that they imagine it possible for an affront to be put upon them by a woman.

What matters it who she may be, how many slaves bear her litter, how heavily her ears are laden, how soft her seat? she is always the same thoughtless creature, and unless she possesses acquired knowledge and much learning, she is fierce and passionate in her desires.

Some are annoyed at being jostled by a heater of curling-tongs, and call the reluctance of a great man’s porter to open the door, the pride of his nomenclator, [107] or the disdainfulness of his chamberlain, insults.

O! what laughter is to be got out of such things, with what amusement the mind may be filled when it contrasts the frantic follies of others with its own peace!

“How then? will the wise man not approach doors which are kept by a surly porter?”

Nay, if any need calls him thither, he will make trial of him, however fierce he may be, will tame him as one tames a dog by offering it food, and will not be enraged at having to expend entrance-money, reflecting that on certain bridges also one has to pay toll; in like fashion he will pay his fee to whoever farms this revenue of letting in visitors, for he knows that men are wont to buy whatever is offered for sale. [108]

A man shows a poor spirit if he is pleased with himself for having answered the porter cavalierly, broken his staff, forced his way into his master’s presence, and demanded a whipping for him.

He who strives with a man makes himself that man’s rival, and must be on equal terms with him before he can overcome him.

But what will the wise man do when he receives a cuff?

He will do as Cato did when he was struck in the face; he did not flare up and revenge the outrage, he did not even pardon it, but ignored it, showing more magnanimity in not acknowledging it than if he had forgiven it.

We will not dwell long upon this point; for who is there who knows not that none of those things which are thought to be good or evil are looked upon by the wise man and by mankind in general in the same manner?

He does not regard what all men think low or wretched; he does not follow the people’s track, but as the stars move in a path opposite to that of the Earth, so he proceeds contrary to the prejudices of all.