ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
THOSE who accuse men of ever looking eagerly toward future things, and instruct us to lay hold of present possessions and to establish ourselves in them, as having no grip upon what is to come, much less, indeed, than upon what is past, put their finger on the most common of human errors — if we dare give the name of error to what Nature herself impels us to, in the interest of the continuation of her work, (c) impressing upon us this false attitude of mind as well as many others; being more jealous of our doings than of our wisdom. (b) We are never in our true abiding-place, we are always somewhere else. Fear, desire, hope drive us toward the future and deprive us of the perception and consideration of what is; and we waste our time thinking of what will be, when in truth we ourselves shall be no more. (c) Calamitosus est animus futuri anxius.
This great principle is often cited by Plato: “Do what thou hast to do, and know thyself.” Each of these phrases includes, in general terms, our whole duty; and, likewise, each includes its companion. He who would do what it is his duty to do would see that his first lesson is to find out what he is and what is proper to him; and he who knows himself does not see an action as belonging to him which is foreign to him, and he loves and cultivates himself before all else, declining superfluous occupations and futile ideas and suggestions. Ut stultitia etsi adepta est quod concupivit nunquam setamen satis consecutam putat: sic sapientia semper eo contenta est quod adest, neque eam unquam sui pænitet. Epicurus exempts the wise man from forethought and care for
- The first three pages were added in 1588 or 1595.
- Unfortunate is the mind that is troubled about the future. — Seneca, Epistle 98.6.
- In the Timæus.
- Whilst folly, although she has acquired what she desired, none the less never thinks that she has obtained enough, wisdom, on the con- trary, is always content with whatever happens, and is never displeased by anything. — Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V, 18.
In the edition of 1596, the following translation is substituted for this Latin passage: Comme la folie, quand on luy octroyera ce qu'elle desire, ne sera pas contente, aussi est la sagesse contente de ce qui est present, ne se desplait jamais de soy.