HOPE AND FEAR ARE THE BANE OF HUMAN LIFE

No man can be said to be perfectly happy that runs the risk of
disappointment: which is the case of every man that _fears_ or _hopes_
for anything. For _hope_ and _fear_, how distant soever they may seem
to be the one from the other, they are both of them yet coupled in the
same chain, as the guard and the prisoner; and the one treads upon
the heels of the other. The reason of this is obvious, for they are
passions that look forward, and are ever solicitous for the future;
only _hope_ is the more plausible weakness of the two, which in truth,
upon the main, are inseparable; for the one cannot be without the
other: but where the _hope_ is stronger than the _fear_, or the _fear_
than the _hope_, we call it the one or the other; for without _fear_ it
were no longer _hope_, but _certainty_; as without _hope_ it were no
longer _fear_ but _despair_.

We may come to understand whether our disputes are vain or not, if we
do but consider that we are either troubled about the _present_, the
_future_ or _both_. If the present, it is easy to judge, and the future
is uncertain. It is a foolish thing to be miserable beforehand for
fear of misery to come; for a man loses the present, which he might
enjoy, in expectation of the future: nay, the fear of losing anything
is as bad as the loss itself. I will be as prudent as I can, but not
timorous or careless; and I will bethink myself, and forecast what
inconveniences may happen before they come. It is true, a man may fear,
and yet not be fearful; which is no more than to have the affection of
fear without the vice of it; but yet a frequent admittance of it runs
into a habit. It is a shameful and an unmanly thing to be doubtful,
timorous, and uncertain; to set one step forward, and another backward;
and to be irresolute. Can there be any man so fearful, that had not
rather fall once than hang always in suspense?

Our miseries are endless, if we stand in fear of all possibilities;
the best way, in such a case, is to drive out one nail with another,
and a little to qualify fear with hope; which may serve to palliate a
misfortune; though not to cure it. There is not anything that we fear,
which is so certain to come, as it is certain that many things which
we do fear will not come; but we are loth to oppose our credulity when
it begins to move us, and so to bring our fear to the test. Well! but
“what if the thing we fear should come to pass?” Perhaps it will be
the better for us. Suppose it be _death_ itself, why may it not prove
the glory of my life? Did not poison make Socrates famous? and was not
Cato’s sword a great part of his honor? “Do we fear any misfortune to
befall us?” We are not presently sure that it will happen. How many
deliverances have come unlooked for? and how many mischiefs that we
looked for have never come to pass? It is time enough to lament when it
comes, and, in the _interim_, to promise ourselves the best. What do I
know but something or other may delay or divert it? Some have escaped
out of the fire; others, when a house has fallen over their head,
have received no hurt: one man has been saved when a sword was at his
throat; another has been condemned, and outlived his headsman: so that
ill-fortune, we see, as well as good, has her levities; peradventure
it will be, peradventure not; and until it comes to pass, we are not
sure of it: we do many times take words in a worse sense than they were
intended, and imagine things to be worse taken than they are. It is
time enough to bear a misfortune when it comes, without anticipating it.

He that would deliver himself from all apprehensions of the future,
let him first take for granted, that all fears will fall upon him; and
then examine and measure the evil that he fears, which he will find
to be neither great nor long. Beside, that the ills which he fears he
may suffer, he suffers in the very fear of them. As in the symptoms of
an approaching disease, a man shall find himself lazy and listless: a
weariness in his limbs, with a yawning and shuddering all over him; so
it is in the case of a weak mind, it fancies misfortunes, and makes a
man wretched before his time. Why should I torment myself at present
with what, perhaps, may fall out fifty years hence? This humor is a
kind of voluntary disease, and an industrious contrivance of our own
unhappiness, to complain of an affliction that we do not feel. Some
are not only moved with grief itself, but with the mere opinion of
it; as children will start at a shadow, or at the sight of a deformed
person. If we stand in fear of violence from a powerful enemy, it is
some comfort to us, that whosoever makes himself terrible to others is
not without fear himself: the least noise makes a lion start; and the
fiercest of beasts, whatsoever enrages them, makes them tremble too: a
shadow, a voice, an unusual odor, rouses them.

The things most to be feared I take to be of three kinds; _want_,
_sickness_, and those _violences_ that may be imposed upon us by a
_strong hand_. The last of these has the greatest force, because it
comes attended with noise and tumult; whereas the incommodities of
poverty and diseases are more natural, and steal upon us in silence,
without any external circumstances of horror: but the other marches in
pomp, with fire and sword, gibbets, racks, hooks; wild beasts to devour
us; stakes to impale us; engines to tear us to pieces; pitched bags to
burn us in, and a thousand other exquisite inventions of cruelty. No
wonder then, if that be the most dreadful to us that presents itself in
so many uncouth shapes; and by the very solemnity is rendered the most
formidable. The more instruments of bodily pain the executioner shows
us, the more frightful he makes himself: for many a man that would have
encountered death in any generous form, with resolution enough, is
yet overcome with the _manner_ of it. As for the calamities of hunger
and thirst, inward ulcers, scorching fevers, tormenting fits of the
stone, I look upon these miseries to be at least as grievous as any
of the rest; only they do not so much affect the fancy, because they
lie out of sight. Some people talk high of danger at a distance; but
(like cowards) when the executioner comes to do his duty, and show us
the fire, the ax, the scaffold, and death at hand, their courage fails
them upon the very pinch, when they have most need of it. Sickness, (I
hope) captivity, fire, are no new things to us; the fall of houses,
funerals, and conflagrations, are every day before our eyes. The man
that I supped with last night is dead before morning; why should I
wonder then, seeing so many fall about me, to be hit at last myself?
What can be greater madness than to cry out, “Who would have dreamed
of this?” And why not, I beseech you? Where is that estate that may
not be reduced to beggary? that dignity which may not be followed with
banishment, disgrace, and extreme contempt? that kingdom that may not
suddenly fall to ruin; change its master, and be depopulated? that
prince that may not pass the hand of a common hangman? That which is
one man’s fortune may be another’s; but the foresight of calamities to
come breaks the violence of them.

How many things are there that the fancy makes terrible by night, which
the day turns into ridiculous! What is there in labor, or in death,
that a man should be afraid of? They are much slighter in act than
in contemplation; and we _may_ contemn them, but we _will_ not: so
that it is not because they are hard that we dread them, but they are
hard because we are first afraid of them. Pains, and other violences
of Fortune, are the same thing to us that goblins are to children:
we are more scared with them than hurt. We take up our opinions upon
trust, and err for company, still judging that to be best that has
most competitors. We make a false calculation of matters, because we
advise with opinion, and not with Nature; and this misleads us to a
higher esteem for riches, honor, and power, than they are worth: we
have been used to admire and recommend them, and a private error is
quickly turned into a public. The greatest and the smallest things
are equally hard to be comprehended; we account many things _great_,
for want of understanding what effectually is so: and we reckon other
things to be _small_, which we find frequently to be of the highest
value. Vain things only move vain minds. The accidents that we so
much boggle at are not terrible in themselves, but they are made so
by our infirmities; but we consult rather what we hear than what we
feel, without examining, opposing, or discussing the things we fear;
so that we either stand still and tremble, or else directly run for
it, as those troops did, that, upon the raising of the dust, took a
flock of sheep for the enemy. When the body and mind are corrupted,
it is no wonder if all things prove intolerable; and not because they
are so in truth, but because we are dissolute and foolish: for we are
infatuated to such a degree, that, betwixt the common madness of men,
and that which falls under the care of the physician, there is but
this difference, the one labors of a disease, and the other of a false
opinion.

The Stoics hold, that all those torments that commonly draw from us
groans and ejaculations, are in themselves trivial and contemptible.
But these high-flown expressions apart (how true soever) let us
discourse the point at the rate of ordinary men, and not make ourselves
miserable before our time; for the things we apprehend to be at hand
may possibly never come to pass. Some things trouble us more than they
should, other things sooner; and some things again disorder us that
ought not to trouble us at all; so that we either enlarge, or create,
or anticipate our disquiets. For the first part, let it rest as a
matter in controversy; for that which I account light, another perhaps
will judge insupportable! One man laughs under the lash, and another
whines for a fillip. How sad a calamity is poverty to one man, which to
another appears rather desirable than inconvenient? For the poor man,
who has nothing to lose, has nothing to fear: and he that would enjoy
himself to the satisfaction of his soul, must be either poor indeed,
or at least look as if he were so. Some people are extremely dejected
with sickness and pain; whereas Epicurus blessed his fate with his last
breath, in the acutest torments of the stone imaginable. And so for
banishment, which to one man is so grievous, and yet to another is no
more than a bare change of place: a thing that we do every day for our
health, pleasure, nay, and upon the account even of common business.

How terrible is death to one man, which to another appears the greatest
providence in nature, even toward all ages and conditions! It is the
wish of some, the relief of many, and the end of all. It sets the slave
at liberty, carries the banished man home, and places all mortals upon
the same level: insomuch, that life itself were a punishment without
it. When I see tyrants, tortures, violences, the prospect of death is a
consolation to me, and the only remedy against the injuries of life.

Nay, so great are our mistakes in the true estimate of things, that we
have hardly done any thing that we have not had reason to wish undone;
and we have found the things we feared to be more desirable than those
we coveted. Our very prayers have been more pernicious than the curses
of our enemies; and we must pray to have our former prayers forgiven.
Where is the wise man that wishes to himself the wishes of his mother,
nurse, or his tutor; the worst of enemies, with the intention of the
best of friends. We are undone if their prayers be heard; and it is our
duty to pray that they may not; for they are no other than well-meaning
execrations. They take evil for good, and one wish fights with another:
give me rather the contempt of all those things whereof they wish me
the greatest plenty. We are equally hurt by some that pray for us, and
by others that curse us: the one imprints in us a false fear, and the
other does us mischief by a mistake: so that it is no wonder if mankind
be miserable, when we are brought up from the very cradle under the
imprecations of our parents. We pray for trifles, without so much as
thinking of the greatest blessings; and we are not ashamed many times
to ask God for that which we should blush to own to our neighbor.

It is with us as with an innocent that my father had in his family; she
fell blind on a sudden, and nobody could persuade her she was blind.
“She could not endure the house,” she cried, “it was so dark,” and was
still calling to go abroad. That which we laughed at in her we find
to be true in ourselves, we are covetous and ambitious; but the world
shall never bring us to acknowledge it, and we impute it to the place:
nay, we are the worse of the two; for that blind fool called for a
guide, and we wander about without one. It is a hard matter to cure
those that will not believe they are sick. We are ashamed to admit a
master, and we are too old to learn. Vice still goes before virtue: so
that we have two works to do: we must cast off the one, and learn the
other. By one evil we make way to another, and only seek things to be
avoided, or those of which we are soon weary. That which seemed too
much when we wished for it, proves too little when we have it; and it
is not, as some imagine, that felicity is greedy, but it is little and
narrow, and cannot satisfy us. That which we take to be very high at a
distance, we find to be but low when we come at it. And the business
is, we do not understand the true state of things: we are deceived by
rumors; when we have gained the thing we aimed at, we find it to be
either ill or empty; or perchance less than we expect, or otherwise
perhaps great, but not good.

There is not anything that is necessary to us but we have it either
_cheap_ or _gratis_: and this is the provision that our heavenly
Father has made for us, whose bounty was never wanting to our needs.
It is true the belly craves and calls upon us, but then a small matter
contents it: a little bread and water is sufficient, and all the rest
is but superfluous. He that lives according to reason shall never be
poor, and he that governs his life by opinion shall never be rich:
for nature is limited, but fancy is boundless. As for meat, clothes,
and lodging, a little feeds the body, and as little covers it; so
that if mankind would only attend human nature, without gaping at
superfluities, a cook would be found as needless as a soldier: for we
may have necessaries upon very easy terms; whereas we put ourselves to
great pains for excesses. When we are cold, we may cover ourselves with
skins of beasts; and, against violent heats, we have natural grottoes;
or with a few osiers and a little clay we may defend ourselves against
all seasons. Providence has been kinder to us than to leave us to live
by our wits, and to stand in need of invention and arts.

It is only pride and curiosity that involve us in difficulties: if
nothing will serve a man but rich clothes and furniture, statues and
plate, a numerous train of servants, and the rarities of all nations,
it is not Fortune’s fault, but his own, that he is not satisfied: for
his desires are insatiable, and this is not a thirst, but a disease;
and if he were master of the whole world, he would be still a beggar.
It is the mind that makes us rich and happy, in what condition soever
we are; and money signifies no more to it than it does to the gods. If
the religion be sincere, no matter for the ornaments it is only luxury
and avarice that make poverty grievous to us; for it is a very small
matter that does our business; and when we have provided against cold,
hunger, and thirst, all the rest is but vanity and excess: and there
is no need of expense upon foreign delicacies, or the artifices of the
kitchen. What is he the worse for poverty that despises these things?
nay, is he not rather the better for it, because he is not able to go
to the price of them? for he is kept sound whether he will or not: and
that which a man _cannot_ do, looks many times as if he _would not_.

When I look back into the moderation of past ages, it makes me ashamed
to discourse, as if poverty had need of any consolation; for we are
now come to that degree of intemperance, that a fair patrimony is too
little for a meal. Homer had but one servant, Plato three, and Zeno
(the master of the masculine sect of Stoics) had none at all. The
daughters of Scipio had their portions out of the common treasury,
for their father left them not a penny: how happy were the husbands
that had the people of Rome for their father-in-law! Shall any man now
contemn poverty after these eminent examples, which are sufficient
not only to justify but to recommend it? Upon Diogenes’ only servant
running away from him, he was told where he was, and persuaded to fetch
him back again: “What,” says he, “can Manes live without Diogenes, and
not Diogenes without Manes?” and so let him go.

The piety and moderation of Scipio have made his memory more venerable
than his arms; and more yet after he left his country than while he
defended it: for matters were come to that pass, that either Scipio
must be injurious to Rome or Rome to Scipio. Coarse bread and water to
a temperate man is as good as a feast; and the very herbs of the field
yield a nourishment to man as well as to beasts. It was not by choice
meats and perfumes that our forefathers recommended themselves, but
in virtuous actions, and the sweat of honest, military, and of manly
labors.

While Nature lay in common, and all her benefits were promiscuously
enjoyed, what could be happier than the state of mankind, when people
lived without avarice or envy? What could be richer than when there
was not a poor man to be found in the world? So soon as this impartial
bounty of Providence came to be restrained by covetousness, and
that particulars appropriated to themselves that which was intended
for all, then did poverty creep into the world, when some men, by
desiring more than came to their share, lost their title to the rest;
a loss never to be repaired; for though we may come yet to get much,
we once had all. The fruits of the earth were in those days divided
among the inhabitants of it, without either want or excess. So long
as men contented themselves with their lot, there was no violence,
no engrossing or hiding of those benefits for particular advantages,
which were appointed for the community; but every man had as much
care for his neighbor as for himself. No arms or bloodshed, no war,
but with wild beasts: but under the protection of a wood or a cave,
they spent their days without cares, and their nights without groans;
their innocence was their security and their protection. There were
as yet no beds of state, no ornaments, of pearl or embroidery, nor
any of those remorses that attend them; but the heavens were their
canopy, and the glories of them their spectacle. The motions of the
orbs, the courses of the stars, and the wonderful order of Providence,
was their contemplation. There was no fear of the house falling, or
the rustling of a rat behind the arras; they had no palaces then like
cities; but they had open air, and breathing room, crystal fountains,
refreshing shades, the meadows dressed up in their native beauty, and
such cottages as were according to nature, and wherein they lived
contentedly, without fear either of losing or of falling. These people
lived without either solitude or fraud; and yet I must call them rather
happy than wise.

That men were generally better before they were corrupted than after,
I make no doubt; and I am apt to believe that they were both stronger
and hardier too but their wits were not yet come to maturity; for
Nature does not give virtue; and it is a kind of art to become good.
They had not as yet torn up the bowels of the earth for gold, silver,
or precious stones; and so far were they from killing any man, as we
do, for a spectacle, that they were not as yet come to it, either in
fear or anger; nay, they spared the very fishes. But, after all this,
they were innocent because they were ignorant: and there is a great
difference betwixt not knowing how to offend and not being willing to
do it. They had, in that rude life, certain images and resemblances of
virtue, but yet they fell short of virtue itself, which comes only by
institution, learning, and study, as it is perfected by practice. It is
indeed the end for which we were born, but yet it did not come into the
world with us; and in the best of men, before they are instructed, we
find rather the matter and the seeds of virtue than the virtue itself.
It is the wonderful benignity of Nature that has laid open to us all
things that may do us good, and only hid those things from us that may
hurt us; as if she durst not trust us with gold and silver, or with
iron, which is the instrument of war and contention, for the other.
It is we ourselves that have drawn out of the earth both the _causes_
and the _instruments_ of our dangers: and we are so vain as to set
the highest esteem upon those things to which Nature has assigned the
lowest place. What can be more coarse and rude in the mine than these
precious metals, or more slavish and dirty than the people that dig and
work them? and yet they defile our minds more than our bodies, and make
the possessor fouler than the artificer of them. Rich men, in fine, are
only the greater slaves; both the one and the other want a great deal.

Happy is that man that eats only for hunger, and drinks only for
thirst; that stands upon his own legs, and lives by reason, not by
example; and provides for use and necessity, not for ostentation
and pomp! Let us curb our appetites, encourage virtue, and rather
be beholden to ourselves for riches than to Fortune, who when a man
draws himself into a narrow compass, has the least mark at him. Let
my bed be plain and clean, and my clothes so too: my meat without
much expense, or many waiters, and neither a burden to my purse nor
to my body, not to go out the same way it came in. That which is too
little for luxury, is abundantly enough for nature. The end of eating
and drinking is satiety; now, what matters it though one eats and
drinks more, and another less, so long as the one is not a-hungry, nor
the other athirst? Epicurus, who limits pleasure to nature, as the
Stoics do virtue, is undoubtedly in the right; and those that cite
him to authorize their voluptuousness do exceedingly mistake him, and
only seek a good authority for an evil cause: for their pleasures of
sloth, gluttony, and lust, have no affinity at all with his precepts
or meaning. It is true, that at first sight his philosophy seems
effeminate; but he that looks nearer him will find him to be a very
brave man only in a womanish dress.

It is a common objection, I know, that these philosophers do not
live at the rate they talk; fer they can flatter their superiors,
gather estates, and be as much concerned at the loss of fortune, or
of friends, as other people: as sensible of reproaches, as luxurious
in their eating and drinking, their furniture, their houses; as
magnificent in their plate, servants, and officers; as profuse and
curious in their gardens, etc. Well! and what of all this, or if it
were twenty times more? It is some degree of virtue for a man to
condemn himself; and if he cannot come up to the best, to be yet
better than the worst; and if he cannot wholly subdue his appetites,
however to check and diminish them. If I do not live as I preach, take
notice that I do not speak of myself, but of virtue, nor am I so much
offended with other men’s vices as with my own. All this was objected
to Plato, Epicurus, Zeno; nor is any virtue so sacred as to escape
malevolence. The Cynic Demetrius was a great instance of severity and
mortification; and one that imposed upon himself neither to possess
anything, nor so much as to ask it: and yet he had this _scorn_ put
upon him, that his profession was _poverty_, not _virtue_. Plato is
blamed for _asking_ money; Aristotle for _receiving_ it; Democritus
for _neglecting_ it; Epicurus for _consuming_ it. How happy were we if
we could but come to imitate these men’s vices; for if we knew our own
condition, we should find work enough at home. But we are like people
that are making merry at a play or a tavern when their own houses are
on fire, and yet they know nothing of it. Nay, Cato himself was said to
be a drunkard; but _drunkenness_ itself shall sooner be proved to be
no crime than Cato dishonest. They that demolish temples, and overturn
altars, show their good-will, though they can do the gods no hurt, and
so it fares with those that invade the reputation of great men.

If the professors of virtue be as the world calls them, avaricious,
libidinous, ambitious—what are they then that have a detestation for
the very name of it: but malicious natures do not want wit to abuse
honester men than themselves. It is the practice of the multitude to
bark at eminent men as little dogs do at strangers; for they look upon
other men’s virtues as the upbraiding of their own wickedness. We
should do well to commend those that are good, if not, let us pass them
over; but, however, let us spare ourselves: for beside the blaspheming
of virtue, our rage is to no purpose. But to return now to my text.

We are ready enough to limit others but loth to put bonds and
restraints upon ourselves, though we know that many times a greater
evil is cured by a less; and the mind that will not be brought to
virtue by precepts, comes to it frequently by necessity. Let us try a
little to eat upon a joint stool, to serve ourselves, to live within
compass, and accommodate our clothes to the end they were made for.
Occasional experiments of our moderation give us the best proof of
our firmness and virtue. A well-governed appetite is a great part of
liberty, and it is a blessed lot, that since no man can have all things
that he would have, we may all of us forbear desiring what we have not.
It is the office of temperance to overrule us in our pleasures; some
she rejects, others she qualifies and keeps within bounds. Oh! the
delights of rest when a man comes to be weary, and of meat when he is
heartily hungry.

I have learned (says our author) by one journey how many things we have
that are superfluous, and how easily they might be spared, for when we
are without them upon necessity, we do not so much as feel the want of
them. This is the second blessed day (says he) that my friend and I
have travelled together: one wagon carries ourselves and our servants;
my mattress lies upon the ground and I upon that: our diet answerable
to our lodging, and never without our figs and our table-books. The
muleteer without shoes, and the mules only prove themselves to be alive
by their walking. In this equipage, I am not willing, I perceive,
to own myself, but as often as we happen into better company, I
presently fall a-blushing, which shows that I am not yet confirmed in
those things which I approve and commend. I am not yet come to own my
frugality, for he that is ashamed to be seen in a mean condition would
be proud of a splendid one. I value myself upon what passengers think
of me, and tacitly renounce my principles, whereas I should rather
lift up my voice to be heard by mankind, and tell them “You are all
mad—your minds are set upon superfluities and you value no man for his
virtues.”

I came one night weary home, and threw myself upon the bed with this
consideration about me: “There is nothing ill that is well taken.” My
baker tells me he has no bread; but, says he, I may get some of your
tenants, though I fear it is not good. No matter, said I, for I will
stay until it be better—that is to say until my stomach will be glad
of worse. It is discretion sometimes to practice temperance and wont
ourselves to a little, for there are many difficulties both of time and
place that may force us upon it.

When we come to the matter of patrimony, how strictly do we examine
what every man is worth before we will trust him with a penny! “Such a
man,” we cry, “has a great estate, but it is shrewdly encumbered—a very
fair house, but it was built with borrowed money—a numerous family,
but he does not keep touch with his creditors—if his debts were paid
he would not be worth a groat.” Why do we not take the same course in
other things, and examine what every man is worth? It is not enough to
have a long train of attendants, vast possessions, or an incredible
treasure in money and jewels—a man may be poor for all this. There
is only this difference at best—one man borrows of the _usurer_, and
the other of _fortune_. What signifies the carving or gilding of the
chariot; is the master ever the better of it?

We cannot close up this chapter with a more generous instance of
moderation than that of Fabricius. Pyrrhus tempted him with a sum of
money to betray his country, and Pyrrhus’s physician offered Fabricius,
for a sum of money, to poison his _master_; but he was too brave
either to be overcome by gold, or to be overcome by poison, so that he
refused the money, and advised Pyrrhus to have a care of treachery:
and this too in the heat of a licentious war. Fabricius valued himself
upon his poverty, and was as much above the thought of riches as of
poison. “Live Pyrrhus,” says he “by my friendship; and turn that to
thy satisfaction which was before thy trouble:” that is to say that
Fabricius could not be corrupted.

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