To say nothing of Minos and Numa, both which ruled their foolish multitudes with fabulous inventions; with which kind of toys that great and powerful beast, the people, are led anyway. Again what city ever received Plato's or Aristotle's laws, or Socrates' precepts? But, on the contrary, what made the Decii devote themselves to the infernal gods, or Q. Curtius to leap into the gulf, but an empty vainglory, a most bewitching siren?
And yet 'tis strange it should be so condemned by those wise philosophers. For what is more foolish, say they, than for a suppliant suitor to flatter the people, to buy their favor with gifts, to court the applauses of so many fools, to please himself with their acclamations, to be carried on the people's shoulders as in triumph, and have a brazen statue in the marketplace?
Add to this the adoption of names and surnames, those divine honors given to a man of no reputation, and the deification of the most wicked tyrants with public ceremonies; most foolish things, and such as one Democritus is too little to laugh at. Who denies it? And yet from this root sprang all the great acts of the heroes which the pens of so many eloquent men have extolled to the skies. In a word, this folly is that that laid the foundation of cities; and by it, empire, authority, religion, policy, and public actions are preserved; neither is there anything in human life that is not a kind of pastime of folly.
But to speak of arts, what set men's wits on work to invent and transmit to posterity so many famous, as they conceive, pieces of learning but the thirst of glory? With so much loss of sleep, such pains and travail, have the most foolish of men thought to purchase themselves a kind of I know not what fame, than which nothing can be more vain.
And yet notwithstanding, you owe this advantage to folly, and which is the most delectable of all other, that you reap the benefit of other men's madness. And now, having vindicated to myself the praise of fortitude and industry, what think you if I do the same by that of prudence? But some will say, you may as well join fire and water.
It may be so. But yet I doubt not but to succeed even in this also, if, as you have done hitherto, you will but favor me with your attention. And first, if prudence depends upon experience, to whom is the honor of that name more proper? To the wise man, who partly out of modesty and partly distrust of himself, attempts nothing; or the fool, whom neither modesty which he never had, nor danger which he never considers, can discourage from anything? The wise man has recourse to the books of the ancients, and from thence picks nothing but subtleties of words.
The fool, in undertaking and venturing on the business of the world, gathers, if I mistake not, the true prudence, such as Homer though blind may be said to have seen when he said, "The burnt child dreads the fire. But from these folly sufficiently frees us, and few there are that rightly understand of what great advantage it is to blush at nothing and attempt everything. But if you had rather take prudence for that that consists in the judgment of things, hear me, I beseech you, how far they are from it that yet crack of the name.
For first 'tis evident that all human things, like Alcibiades' Sileni or rural gods, carry a double face, but not the least alike; so that what at first sight seems to be death, if you view it narrowly may prove to be life; and so the contrary. What appears beautiful may chance to be deformed; what wealthy, a very beggar; what infamous, praiseworthy; what learned, a dunce; what lusty, feeble; what jocund, sad; what noble, base; what lucky, unfortunate; what friendly, an enemy; and what healthful, noisome.
In short, view the inside of these Sileni, and you'll find them quite other than what they appear; which, if perhaps it shall not seem so philosophically spoken, I'll make it plain to you "after my blunt way. But yet being so ill-furnished with the gifts of the mind, and ever thinking he shall never have enough, he's the poorest of all men. And then for his mind so given up to vice, 'tis a shame how it enslaves him. I might in like manner philosophize of the rest; but let this one, for example's sake, be enough. Yet why this? Have patience, and I'll show you what I drive at.
If anyone seeing a player acting his part on a stage should go about to strip him of his disguise and show him to the people in his true native form, would he not, think you, not only spoil the whole design of the play, but deserve himself to be pelted off with stones as a phantastical fool and one out of his wits? But nothing is more common with them than such changes; the same person one while impersonating a woman, and another while a man; now a youngster, and by and by a grim seignior; now a king, and presently a peasant; now a god, and in a trice again an ordinary fellow.
But to discover this were to spoil all, it being the only thing that entertains the eyes of the spectators. And what is all this life but a kind of comedy, wherein men walk up and down in one another's disguises and act their respective parts, till the property-man brings them back to the attiring house.
And yet he often orders a different dress, and makes him that came but just now off in the robes of a king put on the rags of a beggar. Thus are all things represented by counterfeit, and yet without this there was no living. And here if any wise man, as it were dropped from heaven, should start up and cry, this great thing whom the world looks upon for a god and I know not what is not so much as a man, for that like a beast he is led by his passions, but the worst of slaves, inasmuch as he gives himself up willingly to so many and such detestable masters.
Again if he should bid a man that were bewailing the death of his father to laugh, for that he now began to live by having got an estate, without which life is but a kind of death; or call another that were boasting of his family ill begotten or base, because he is so far removed from virtue that is the only fountain of nobility; and so of the rest: what else would he get by it but be thought himself mad and frantic?
For as nothing is more foolish than preposterous wisdom, so nothing is more unadvised than a forward unseasonable prudence. And such is his that does not comply with the present time "and order himself as the market goes," but forgetting that law of feasts, "either drink or begone," undertakes to disprove a common received opinion. Whereas on the contrary 'tis the part of a truly prudent man not to be wise beyond his condition, but either to take no notice of what the world does, or run with it for company.
But this is foolish, you'll say; nor shall I deny it, provided always you be so civil on the other side as to confess that this is to act a part in that world. But, O you gods, "shall I speak or hold my tongue? However it might not be amiss perhaps in so great an affair to call forth the Muses from Helicon, since the poets so often invoke them upon every foolish occasion.
Be present then awhile, and assist me, you daughters of Jupiter, while I make it out that there is no way to that so much famed wisdom, nor access to that fortress as they call it of happiness, but under the banner of Folly. And first 'tis agreed of all hands that our passions belong to Folly; inasmuch as we judge a wise man from a fool by this, that the one is ordered by them, the other by reason; and therefore the Stoics remove from a wise man all disturbances of mind as so many diseases.
But these passions do not only the office of a tutor to such as are making towards the port of wisdom, but are in every exercise of virtue as it were spurs and incentives, nay and encouragers to well doing: which though that great Stoic Seneca most strongly denies, and takes from a wise man all affections whatever, yet in doing that he leaves him not so much as a man but rather a new kind of god that was never yet nor ever like to be.
Nay, to speak plainer, he sets up a stony semblance of a man, void of all sense and common feeling of humanity. And much good to them with this wise man of theirs; let them enjoy him to themselves, love him without competitors, and live with him in Plato's commonwealth, the country of ideas, or Tantalus' orchards. For who would not shun and startle at such a man, as at some unnatural accident or spirit? A man dead to all sense of nature and common affections, and no more moved with love or pity than if he were a flint or rock; whose censure nothing escapes; that commits no errors himself, but has a lynx's eyes upon others; measures everything by an exact line, and forgives nothing; pleases himself with himself only; the only rich, the only wise, the only free man, and only king; in brief, the only man that is everything, but in his own single judgment only; that cares not for the friendship of any man, being himself a friend to no man; makes no doubt to make the gods stoop to him, and condemns and laughs at the whole actions of our life?
And yet such a beast is this their perfect wise man. But tell me pray, if the thing were to be carried by most voices, what city would choose him for its governor, or what army desire him for their general? What woman would have such a husband, what goodfellow such a guest, or what servant would either wish or endure such a master? Nay, who had not rather have one of the middle sort of fools, who, being a fool himself, may the better know how to command or obey fools; and who though he please his like, 'tis yet the greater number; one that is kind to his wife, merry among his friends, a boon companion, and easy to be lived with; and lastly one that thinks nothing of humanity should be a stranger to him?
But I am weary of this wise man, and therefore I'll proceed to some other advantages. Go to then. Suppose a man in some lofty high tower, and that he could look round him, as the poets say Jupiter was now and then wont. To how many misfortunes would he find the life of man subject? How miserable, to say no worse, our birth, how difficult our education; to how many wrongs our childhood exposed, to what pains our youth; how unsupportable our old age, and grievous our unavoidable death?
As also what troops of diseases beset us, how many casualties hang over our heads, how many troubles invade us, and how little there is that is not steeped in gall? To say nothing of those evils one man brings upon another, as poverty, imprisonment, infamy, dishonesty, racks, snares, treachery, reproaches, actions, deceits--but I'm got into as endless a work as numbering the sands--for what offenses mankind have deserved these things, or what angry god compelled them to be born into such miseries is not my present business.
Yet he that shall diligently examine it with himself, would he not, think you, approve the example of the Milesian virgins and kill himself? But who are they that for no other reason but that they were weary of life have hastened their own fate? Were they not the next neighbors to wisdom?
And now I think you see what would become of the world if all men should be wise; to wit it were necessary we got another kind of clay and some better potter. But I, partly through ignorance, partly unadvisedness, and sometimes through forgetfulness of evil, do now and then so sprinkle pleasure with the hopes of good and sweeten men up in their greatest misfortunes that they are not willing to leave this life, even then when according to the account of the destinies this life has left them; and by how much the less reason they have to live, by so much the more they desire it; so far are they from being sensible of the least wearisomeness of life.
Of my gift it is, that you have so many old Nestors everywhere that have scarce left them so much as the shape of a man; stutterers, dotards, toothless, gray-haired, bald; or rather, to use the words of Aristophanes, "Nasty, crumpled, miserable, shriveled, bald, toothless, and wanting their baubles," yet so delighted with life and to be thought young that one dyes his gray hairs; another covers his baldness with a periwig; another gets a set of new teeth; another falls desperately in love with a young wench and keeps more flickering about her than a young man would have been ashamed of.
For to see such an old crooked piece with one foot in the grave to marry a plump young wench, and that too without a portion, is so common that men almost expect to be commended for it. But the best sport of all is to see our old women, even dead with age, and such skeletons one would think they had stolen out of their graves, and ever mumbling in their mouths, "Life is sweet;" and as old as they are, still caterwauling, daily plastering their face, scarce ever from the glass, gossiping, dancing, and writing love letters.
These things are laughed at as foolish, as indeed they are; yet they please themselves, live merrily, swim in pleasure, and in a word are happy, by my courtesy. But I would have them to whom these things seem ridiculous to consider with themselves whether it be not better to live so pleasant a life in such kind of follies, than, as the proverb goes, "to take a halter and hang themselves. If a stone fall upon a man's head, that's evil indeed; but dishonesty, infamy, villainy, ill reports carry no more hurt in them than a man is sensible of; and if a man have no sense of them, they are no longer evils.
What are you the worse if the people hiss at you, so you applaud yourself? And that a man be able to do so, he must owe it to folly. But methinks I hear the philosophers opposing it and saying 'tis a miserable thing for a man to be foolish, to err, mistake, and know nothing truly. Nay rather, this is to be a man.
And why they should call it miserable, I see no reason; forasmuch as we are so born, so bred, so instructed, nay such is the common condition of us all. And nothing can be called miserable that suits with its kind, unless perhaps you'll think a man such because he can neither fly with birds, nor walk on all four with beasts, and is not armed with horns as a bull. For by the same reason he would call the warlike horse unfortunate, because he understood not grammar, nor ate cheese-cakes; and the bull miserable, because he'd make so ill a wrestler. And therefore, as a horse that has no skill in grammar is not miserable, no more is man in this respect, for that they agree with his nature.
But again, the virtuosi may say that there was particularly added to man the knowledge of sciences, by whose help he might recompense himself in understanding for what nature cut him short in other things. As if this had the least face of truth, that Nature that was so solicitously watchful in the production of gnats, herbs, and flowers should have so slept when she made man, that he should have need to be helped by sciences, which that old devil Theuth, the evil genius of mankind, first invented for his destruction, and are so little conducive to happiness that they rather obstruct it; to which purpose they are properly said to be first found out, as that wise king in Plato argues touching the invention of letters.
Sciences therefore crept into the world with other the pests of mankind, from the same head from whence all other mischiefs spring; we'll suppose it devils, for so the name imports when you call them demons, that is to say, knowing. For that simple people of the golden age, being wholly ignorant of everything called learning, lived only by the guidance and dictates of nature; for what use of grammar, where every man spoke the same language and had no further design than to understand one another?
What use of logic, where there was no bickering about the double-meaning words? What need of rhetoric, where there were no lawsuits? Or to what purpose laws, where there were no ill manners? Besides, they were more religious than with an impious curiosity to dive into the secrets of nature, the dimension of stars, the motions, effects, and hidden causes of things; as believing it a crime for any man to attempt to be wise beyond his condition. And as to the inquiry of what was beyond heaven, that madness never came into their heads. But the purity of the golden age declining by degrees, first, as I said before, arts were invented by the evil genii; and yet but few, and those too received by fewer.
After that the Chaldean superstition and Greek newfangledness, that had little to do, added I know not how many more; mere torments of wit, and that so great that even grammar alone is work enough for any man for his whole life. Though yet among these sciences those only are in esteem that come nearest to common sense, that is to say, folly. Divines are half starved, naturalists out of heart, astrologers laughed at, and logicians slighted; only the physician is worth all the rest. And among them too, the more unlearned, impudent, or unadvised he is, the more he is esteemed, even among princes.
For physic, especially as it is now professed by most men, is nothing but a branch of flattery, no less than rhetoric. Next them, the second place is given to our law-drivers, if not the first, whose profession, though I say it myself, most men laugh at as the ass of philosophy; yet there's scarce any business, either so great or so small, but is managed by these asses. These purchase their great lordships, while in the meantime the divine, having run through the whole body of divinity, sits gnawing a radish and is in continual warfare with lice and fleas.
As therefore those arts are best that have the nearest affinity with folly, so are they most happy of all others that have least commerce with sciences and follow the guidance of Nature, who is in no wise imperfect, unless perhaps we endeavor to leap over those bounds she has appointed to us.
Nature hates all false coloring and is ever best where she is least adulterated with art. Go to then, don't you find among the several kinds of living creatures that they thrive best that understand no more than what Nature taught them? What is more prosperous or wonderful than the bee? And though they have not the same judgment of sense as other bodies have, yet wherein has architecture gone beyond their building of houses?
What philosopher ever founded the like republic? Whereas the horse, that comes so near man in understanding and is therefore so familiar with him, is also partaker of his misery. For while he thinks it a shame to lose the race, it often happens that he cracks his wind; and in the battle, while he contends for victory, he's cut down himself, and, together with his rider "lies biting the earth;" not to mention those strong bits, sharp spurs, close stables, arms, blows, rider, and briefly, all that slavery he willingly submits to, while, imitating those men of valor, he so eagerly strives to be revenged of the enemy.
Than which how much more were the life of flies or birds to be wished for, who living by the instinct of nature, look no further than the present, if yet man would but let them alone in it. And if at anytime they chance to be taken, and being shut up in cages endeavor to imitate our speaking, 'tis strange how they degenerate from their native gaiety.
So much better in every respect are the works of nature than the adulteries of art. In like manner I can never sufficiently praise that Pythagoras in a dunghill cock, who being but one had been yet everything, a philosopher, a man, a woman, a king, a private man, a fish, a horse, a frog, and, I believe too, a sponge; and at last concluded that no creature was more miserable than man, for that all other creatures are content with those bounds that nature set them, only man endeavors to exceed them.
And again, among men he gives the precedency not to the learned or the great, but the fool. Nor had that Gryllus less wit than Ulysses with his many counsels, who chose rather to lie grunting in a hog sty than be exposed with the other to so many hazards. Nor does Homer, that father of trifles, dissent from me; who not only called all men "wretched and full of calamity," but often his great pattern of wisdom, Ulysses, "miserable;" Paris, Ajax, and Achilles nowhere.
And why, I pray but that, like a cunning fellow and one that was his craft's master, he did nothing without the advice of Pallas? In a word he was too wise, and by that means ran wide of nature. As therefore among men they are least happy that study wisdom, as being in this twice fools, that when they are born men, they should yet so far forget their condition as to affect the life of gods; and after the example of the giants, with their philosophical gimcracks make a war upon nature: so they on the other side seem as little miserable as is possible who come nearest to beasts and never attempt anything beyond man.
Go to then, let's try how demonstrable this is; not by enthymemes or the imperfect syllogisms of the Stoics, but by plain, downright, and ordinary examples. And now, by the immortal gods! I think nothing more happy than that generation of men we commonly call fools, idiots, lack-wits, and dolts; splendid titles too, as I conceive them. I'll tell you a thing, which at first perhaps may seem foolish and absurd, yet nothing more true. And first they are not afraid of death—no small evil, by Jupiter!
They are not tormented with the conscience of evil acts, not terrified with the fables of ghosts, nor frightened with spirits and goblins. They are not distracted with the fear of evils to come nor the hopes of future good. In short, they are not disturbed with those thousand of cares to which this life is subject. They are neither modest, nor fearful, nor ambitious, nor envious, nor love they any man.
And lastly, if they should come nearer even to the very ignorance of brutes, they could not sin, for so hold the divines. And now tell me, you wise fool, with how many troublesome cares your mind is continually perplexed; heap together all the discommodities of your life, and then you'll be sensible from how many evils I have delivered my fools.
Add to this that they are not only merry, play, sing, and laugh themselves, but make mirth wherever they come, a special privilege it seems the gods have given them to refresh the pensiveness of life. Whence it is that whereas the world is so differently affected one towards another, that all men indifferently admit them as their companions, desire, feed, cherish, embrace them, take their parts upon all occasions, and permit them without offense to do or say what they like.
And so little does everything desire to hurt them, that even the very beasts, by a kind of natural instinct of their innocence no doubt, pass by their injuries. For of them it may be truly said that they are consecrate to the gods, and therefore and not without cause do men have them in such esteem. Whence is it else that they are in so great request with princes that they can neither eat nor drink, go anywhere, or be an hour without them? Nay, and in some degree they prefer these fools before their crabbish wise men, whom yet they keep about them for state's sake. Nor do I conceive the reason so difficult, or that it should seem strange why they are preferred before the others, for that these wise men speak to princes about nothing but grave, serious matters, and trusting to their own parts and learning do not fear sometimes "to grate their tender ears with smart truths"; but fools fit them with that they most delight in, as jests, laughter, abuses of other men, wanton pastimes, and the like.
Again, take notice of this no contemptible blessing which Nature has given fools, that they are the only plain, honest men and such as speak truth. And what is more commendable than truth? For though that proverb of Alcibiades in Plato attributes truth to drunkards and children, yet the praise of it is particularly mine, even from the testimony of Euripides, among whose other things there is extant that his honorable saying concerning us, "A fool speaks foolish things. These are they 'that turn black into white', blow hot and cold with the same breath, and carry a far different meaning in their breast from what they feign with their tongue.
Yet in the midst of all their prosperity, princes in this respect seem to me most unfortunate, because, having no one to tell them truth, they are forced to receive flatterers for friends. But, someone may say, the ears of princes are strangers to truth, and for this reason they avoid those wise men, because they fear lest someone more frank than the rest should dare to speak to them things rather true than pleasant; for so the matter is, that they don't much care for truth.
And yet this is found by experience among my fools, that not only truths but even open reproaches are heard with pleasure; so that the same thing which, if it came from a wise man's mouth might prove a capital crime, spoken by a fool is received with delight. For truth carries with it a certain peculiar power of pleasing, if no accident fall in to give occasion of offense; which faculty the gods have given only to fools. And for the same reasons is it that women are so earnestly delighted with this kind of men, as being more propense by nature to pleasure and toys.
And whatsoever they may happen to do with them, although sometimes it be of the most serious, yet they turn it to jest and laughter, as that sex was ever quick-witted, especially to color their own faults. But to return to the happiness of fools, who when they have passed over this life with a great deal of pleasantness and without so much as the least fear or sense of death, they go straight forth into the Elysian field, to recreate their pious and careless souls with such sports as they used here.
Let's proceed then, and compare the condition of any of your wise men with that of this fool. Fancy to me now some example of wisdom you'd set up against him; one that had spent his childhood and youth in learning the sciences and lost the sweetest part of his life in watchings, cares, studies, and for the remaining part of it never so much as tasted the least of pleasure; ever sparing, poor, sad, sour, unjust, and rigorous to himself, and troublesome and hateful to others; broken with paleness, leanness, crassness, sore eyes, and an old age and death contracted before their time though yet, what matter is it, when he die that never lived?
And here again do those frogs of the Stoics croak at me and say that nothing is more miserable than madness. But folly is the next degree, if not the very thing. For what else is madness than for a man to be out of his wits?
National Portrait Gallery Honors Comedian George Carlin
But to let them see how they are clean out of the way, with the Muses' good favor we'll take this syllogism in pieces. Subtly argued, I must confess, but as Socrates in Plato teaches us how by splitting one Venus and one Cupid to make two of either, in like manner should those logicians have done and distinguished madness from madness, if at least they would be thought to be well in their wits themselves. For all madness is not miserable, or Horace had never called his poetical fury a beloved madness; nor Plato placed the raptures of poets, prophets, and lovers among the chiefest blessings of this life; nor that sibyl in Virgil called Aeneas' travels mad labors.
But there are two sorts of madness, the one that which the revengeful Furies send privily from hell, as often as they let loose their snakes and put into men's breasts either the desire of war, or an insatiate thirst after gold, or some dishonest love, or parricide, or incest, or sacrilege, or the like plagues, or when they terrify some guilty soul with the conscience of his crimes; the other, but nothing like this, that which comes from me and is of all other things the most desirable; which happens as often as some pleasing dotage not only clears the mind of its troublesome cares but renders it more jocund.
And this was that which, as a special blessing of the gods, Cicero, writing to his friend Atticus, wished to himself, that he might be the less sensible of those miseries that then hung over the commonwealth. Nor was that Grecian in Horace much wide of it, who was so far made that he would sit by himself whole days in the theatre laughing and clapping his hands, as if he had seen some tragedy acting, whereas in truth there was nothing presented; yet in other things a man well enough, pleasant among his friends, kind to his wife, and so good a master to his servants that if they had broken the seal of his bottle, he would not have run mad for it.
But at last, when by the care of his friends and physic he was freed from his distemper and become his own man again, he thus expostulates with them, "Now, by Pollux, my friends, you have rather killed than preserved me in thus forcing me from my pleasure. And trust me, I think they were the madder of the two, and had the greater need of hellebore, that should offer to look upon so pleasant a madness as an evil to be removed by physic; though yet I have not determined whether every distemper of the sense or understanding be to be called madness.
For neither he that having weak eyes should take a mule for an ass, nor he that should admire an insipid poem as excellent would be presently thought mad; but he that not only errs in his senses but is deceived also in his judgment, and that too more than ordinary and upon all occasions— he, I must confess, would be thought to come very near to it.
As if anyone hearing an ass bray should take it for excellent music, or a beggar conceive himself a king. And yet this kind of madness, if, as it commonly happens, it turn to pleasure, it brings a great delight not only to them that are possessed with it but to those also that behold it, though perhaps they may not be altogether so mad as the other, for the species of this madness is much larger than the people take it to be. For one mad man laughs at another, and beget themselves a mutual pleasure.
Nor does it seldom happen that he that is the more mad, laughs at him that is less mad. And in this every man is the more happy in how many respects the more he is mad; and if I were judge in the case, he should be ranged in that class of folly that is peculiarly mine, which in truth is so large and universal that I scarce know anyone in all mankind that is wise at all hours, or has not some tang or other of madness. And to this class do they appertain that slight everything in comparison of hunting and protest they take an unimaginable pleasure to hear the yell of the horns and the yelps of the hounds, and I believe could pick somewhat extraordinary out of their very excrement.
And then what pleasure they take to see a buck or the like unlaced? Let ordinary fellows cut up an ox or a wether, 'twere a crime to have this done by anything less than a gentleman! And if any of them chance to get the least piece of it, he presently thinks himself no small gentleman. In all which they drive at nothing more than to become beasts themselves, while yet they imagine they live the life of princes. And next these may be reckoned those that have such an itch of building; one while changing rounds into squares, and presently again squares into rounds, never knowing either measure or end, till at last, reduced to the utmost poverty, there remains not to them so much as a place where they may lay their head, or wherewith to fill their bellies.
And why all this? And, in my opinion, next these may be reckoned such as with their new inventions and occult arts undertake to change the forms of things and hunt all about after a certain fifth essence; men so bewitched with this present hope that it never repents them of their pains or expense, but are ever contriving how they may cheat themselves, till, having spent all, there is not enough left them to provide another furnace. And yet they have not done dreaming these their pleasant dreams but encourage others, as much as in them lies, to the same happiness.
And at last, when they are quite lost in all their expectations, they cheer up themselves with this sentence, "In great things the very attempt is enough," and then complain of the shortness of man's life that is not sufficient for so great an understanding. And then for gamesters, I am a little doubtful whether they are to be admitted into our college; and yet 'tis a foolish and ridiculous sight to see some addicted so to it that they can no sooner hear the rattling of the dice but their heart leaps and dances again.
And then when time after time they are so far drawn on with the hopes of winning that they have made shipwreck of all, and having split their ship on that rock of dice, no less terrible than the bishop and his clerks, scarce got alive to shore, they choose rather to cheat any man of their just debts than not pay the money they lost, lest otherwise, forsooth, they be thought no men of their words. Again what is it, I pray, to see old fellows and half blind to play with spectacles?
Nay, and when a justly deserved gout has knotted their knuckles, to hire a caster, or one that may put the dice in the box for them? A pleasant thing, I must confess, did it not for the most part end in quarrels, and therefore belongs rather to the Furies than me. But there is no doubt but that that kind of men are wholly ours who love to hear or tell feigned miracles and strange lies and are never weary of any tale, though never so long, so it be of ghosts, spirits, goblins, devils, or the like; which the further they are from truth, the more readily they are believed and the more do they tickle their itching ears.
And these serve not only to pass away time but bring profit, especially to mass priests and pardoners. And next to these are they that have gotten a foolish but pleasant persuasion that if they can but see a wooden or painted Polypheme Christopher, they shall not die that day; or do but salute a carved Barbara, in the usual set form, that he shall return safe from battle; or make his application to Erasmus on certain days with some small wax candles and proper prayers, that he shall quickly be rich.
Nay, they have gotten a Hercules, another Hippolytus, and a St. George, whose horse most religiously set out with trappings and bosses there wants little but they worship; however, they endeavor to make him their friend by some present or other, and to swear by his master's brazen helmet is an oath for a prince. Or what should I say of them that hug themselves with their counterfeit pardons; that have measured purgatory by an hourglass, and can without the least mistake demonstrate its ages, years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds, as it were in a mathematical table?
Or what of those who, having confidence in certain magical charms and short prayers invented by some pious imposter, either for his soul's health or profit's sake, promise to themselves everything: wealth, honor, pleasure, plenty, good health, long life, lively old age, and the next place to Christ in the other world, which yet they desire may not happen too soon, that is to say before the pleasures of this life have left them?
And now suppose some merchant, soldier, or judge, out of so many rapines, parts with some small piece of money. He straight conceives all that sink of his whole life quite cleansed; so many perjuries, so many lusts, so many debaucheries, so many contentions, so many murders, so many deceits, so many breaches of trusts, so many treacheries bought off, as it were by compact; and so bought off that they may begin upon a new score.
But what is more foolish than those, or rather more happy, who daily reciting those seven verses of the Psalms promise to themselves more than the top of felicity? Which magical verses some devil or other, a merry one without doubt but more a blab of his tongue than crafty, is believed to have discovered to St. Bernard, but not without a trick. And these are so foolish that I am half ashamed of them myself, and yet they are approved, and that not only by the common people but even the professors of religion.
And what, are not they also almost the same where several countries avouch to themselves their peculiar saint, and as everyone of them has his particular gift, so also his particular form of worship? As, one is good for the toothache; another for groaning women; a third, for stolen goods; a fourth, for making a voyage prosperous; and a fifth, to cure sheep of the rot; and so of the rest, for it would be too tedious to run over all.
And some there are that are good for more things than one; but chiefly, the Virgin Mother, to whom the common people do in a manner attribute more than to the Son. Yet what do they beg of these saints but what belongs to folly? To examine it a little. Among all those offerings which are so frequently hung up in churches, nay up to the very roof of some of them, did you ever see the least acknowledgment from anyone that had left his folly, or grown a hair's breadth the wiser? One escapes a shipwreck, and he gets safe to shore.
Another, run through in a duel, recovers. Another, while the rest were fighting, ran out of the field, no less luckily than valiantly. Another, condemned to be hanged, by the favor of some saint or other, a friend to thieves, got off himself by impeaching his fellows. Another escaped by breaking prison. Another recovered from his fever in spite of his physician.
Another's poison turning to a looseness proved his remedy rather than death; and that to his wife's no small sorrow, in that she lost both her labor and her charge. Another's cart broke, and he saved his horses. Another preserved from the fall of a house. All these hang up their tablets, but no one gives thanks for his recovery from folly; so sweet a thing it is not to be wise, that on the contrary men rather pray against anything than folly.
But why do I launch out into this ocean of superstitions? Had I a hundred tongues, as many mouths, and a voice never so strong, yet were I not able to run over the several sorts of fools or all the names of folly, so thick do they swarm everywhere. And yet your priests make no scruple to receive and cherish them as proper instruments of profit; whereas if some scurvy wise fellow should step up and speak things as they are, as, to live well is the way to die well; the best way to get quit of sin is to add to the money you give the hatred of sin, tears, watchings, prayers, fastings, and amendment of life; such or such a saint will favor you, if you imitate his life—these, I say, and the like—should this wise man chat to the people, from what happiness into how great troubles would he draw them?
Of this college also are they who in their lifetime appoint with what solemnity they'll be buried, and particularly set down how many torches, how many mourners, how many singers, how many almsmen they will have at it; as if any sense of it could come to them, or that it were a shame to them that their corpse were not honorably interred; so curious are they herein, as if, like the aediles of old, these were to present some shows or banquet to the people.
And though I am in haste, yet I cannot yet pass by them who, though they differ nothing from the meanest cobbler, yet 'tis scarcely credible how they flatter themselves with the empty title of nobility. One derives his pedigree from Aeneas, another from Brutus, a third from the star by the tail of Ursa Major. They show you on every side the statues and pictures of their ancestors; run over their great-grandfathers and the great-great-grandfathers of both lines, and the ancient matches of their families, when themselves yet are but once removed from a statue, if not worse than those trifles they boast of.
And yet by means of this pleasant self-love they live a happy life. Nor are they less fools who admire these beasts as if they were gods. But what do I speak of any one or the other particular kind of men, as if this self-love had not the same effect everywhere and rendered most men superabundantly happy? As when a fellow, more deformed than a baboon, shall believe himself handsomer than Homer's Nereus.
Another, as soon as he can draw two or three lines with a compass, presently thinks himself a Euclid. A third, that understands music no more than my horse, and for his voice as hoarse as a dunghill cock, shall yet conceive himself another Hermogenes. But of all madness that's the most pleasant when a man, seeing another any way excellent in what he pretends to himself, makes his boasts of it as confidently as if it were his own.
And such was that rich fellow in Seneca, who whenever he told a story had his servants at his elbow to prompt him the names; and to that height had they flattered him that he did not question but he might venture a rubber at cuffs, a man otherwise so weak he could scarce stand, only presuming on this, that he had a company of sturdy servants about him.
Or to what purpose is it I should mind you of our professors of arts? Forasmuch as this self-love is so natural to them all that they had rather part with their father's land than their foolish opinions; but chiefly players, fiddlers, orators, and poets, of which the more ignorant each of them is, the more insolently he pleases himself, that is to say vaunts and spreads out his plumes. And like lips find like lettuce; nay, the more foolish anything is, the more 'tis admired, the greater number being ever tickled at the worst things, because, as I said before, most men are so subject to folly.
And therefore if the more foolish a man is, the more he pleases himself and is admired by others, to what purpose should he beat his brains about true knowledge, which first will cost him dear, and next render him the more troublesome and less confident, and lastly, please only a few? And now I consider it, Nature has planted, not only in particular men but even in every nation, and scarce any city is there without it, a kind of common self-love. And hence is it that the English, besides other things, particularly challenge to themselves beauty, music, and feasting.
The Scots are proud of their nobility, alliance to the crown, and logical subtleties. The French think themselves the only well-bred men. The Parisians, excluding all others, arrogate to themselves the only knowledge of divinity. The Italians affirm they are the only masters of good letters and eloquence, and flatter themselves on this account, that of all others they only are not barbarous.
In which kind of happiness those of Rome claim the first place, still dreaming to themselves of somewhat, I know not what, of old Rome. The Venetians fancy themselves happy in the opinion of their nobility. The Greeks, as if they were the only authors of sciences, swell themselves with the titles of the ancient heroes. The Turk, and all that sink of the truly barbarous, challenge to themselves the only glory of religion and laugh at Christians as superstitious.
And much more pleasantly the Jews expect to this day the coming of the Messiah, and so obstinately contend for their Law of Moses. The Spaniards give place to none in the reputation of soldiery. The Germans pride themselves in their tallness of stature and skill in magic. And, not to instance in every particular, you see, I conceive, how much satisfaction this Self-love, who has a sister also not unlike herself called Flattery, begets everywhere; for self-love is no more than the soothing of a man's self, which, done to another, is flattery.
And though perhaps at this day it may be thought infamous, yet it is so only with them that are more taken with words than things. They think truth is inconsistent with flattery, but that it is much otherwise we may learn from the examples of true beasts. What more fawning than a dog? And yet what more trusty? What has more of those little tricks than a squirrel? And yet what more loving to man? Unless, perhaps you'll say, men had better converse with fierce lions, merciless tigers, and furious leopards.
For that flattery is the most pernicious of all things, by means of which some treacherous persons and mockers have run the credulous into such mischief. But this of mine proceeds from a certain gentleness and uprightness of mind and comes nearer to virtue than its opposite, austerity, or a morose and troublesome peevishness, as Horace calls it.
Folly By David Axelrod - The qyjywolu.tk
This supports the dejected, relieves the distressed, encourages the fainting, awakens the stupid, refreshes the sick, supplies the untractable, joins loves together, and keeps them so joined. It entices children to take their learning, makes old men frolic, and, under the color of praise, does without offense both tell princes their faults and show them the way to amend them.
In short, it makes every man the more jocund and acceptable to himself, which is the chiefest point of felicity. Again, what is more friendly than when two horses scrub one another? And to say nothing of it, that it's a main part of physic, and the only thing in poetry; 'tis the delight and relish of all human society. But 'tis a sad thing, they say, to be mistaken. Nay rather, he is most miserable that is not so. For they are quite beside the mark that place the happiness of men in things themselves, since it only depends upon opinion. For so great is the obscurity and variety of human affairs that nothing can be clearly known, as it is truly said by our academics, the least insolent of all the philosophers; or if it could, it would but obstruct the pleasure of life.
Lastly, the mind of man is so framed that it is rather taken with the false colors than truth; of which if anyone has a mind to make the experiment, let him go to church and hear sermons, in which if there be anything serious delivered, the audience is either asleep, yawning, or weary of it; but if the preacher—pardon my mistake, I would have said declaimer—as too often it happens, fall but into an old wives' story, they're presently awake, prick up their ears and gape after it.
In like manner, if there be any poetical saint, or one of whom there goes more stories than ordinary, as for example, a George, a Christopher, or a Barbara, you shall see him more religiously worshiped than Peter, Paul, or even Christ himself. But these things are not for this place.
And now at how cheap a rate is this happiness purchased! Forasmuch as to the thing itself a man's whole endeavor is required, be it never so inconsiderable; but the opinion of it is easily taken up, which yet conduces as much or more to happiness. For suppose a man were eating rotten stockfish, the very smell of which would choke another, and yet believed it a dish for the gods, what difference is there as to his happiness? Whereas on the contrary, if another's stomach should turn at a sturgeon, wherein, I pray, is he happier than the other? If a man have a crooked, ill-favored wife, who yet in his eye may stand in competition with Venus, is it not the same as if she were truly beautiful?
Or if seeing an ugly, ill-pointed piece, he should admire the work as believing it some great master's hand, were he not much happier, think you, than they that buy such things at vast rates, and yet perhaps reap less pleasure from them than the other? I know one of my name that gave his new married wife some counterfeit jewels, and as he was a pleasant droll, persuaded her that they were not only right but of an inestimable price; and what difference, I pray, to her, that was as well pleased and contented with glass and kept it as warily as if it had been a treasure?
In the meantime the husband saved his money and had this advantage of her folly, that he obliged her as much as if he had bought them at a great rate.
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Or what difference, think you, between those in Plato's imaginary cave that stand gaping at the shadows and figures of things, so they please themselves and have no need to wish, and that wise man, who, being got loose from them, sees things truly as they are? Whereas that cobbler in Lucian if he might always have continued his golden dreams, he would never have desired any other happiness. So then there is no difference; or, if there be, the fools have the advantage: first, in that their happiness costs them least, that is to say, only some small persuasion; next, that they enjoy it in common.
And the possession of no good can be delightful without a companion. For who does not know what a dearth there is of wise men, if yet any one be to be found? And though the Greeks for these so many ages have accounted upon seven only, yet so help me Hercules, do but examine them narrowly, and I'll be hanged if you find one half-witted fellow, nay or so much as one-quarter of a wise man, among them all. For whereas among the many praises of Bacchus they reckon this the chief, that he washes away cares, and that too in an instant, do but sleep off his weak spirits, and they come on again, as we say, on horseback.
But how much larger and more present is the benefit you receive by me, since, as it were with a perpetual drunkenness I fill your minds with mirth, fancies, and jollities, and that too without any trouble? Nor is there any man living whom I let be without it; whereas the gifts of the gods are scrambled, some to one and some to another.
The sprightly delicious wine that drives away cares and leaves such a flavor behind it grows not everywhere. Beauty, the gift of Venus, happens to few; and to fewer gives Mercury eloquence. Hercules makes not everyone rich. Homer's Jupiter bestows not empire on all men. Mars oftentimes favors neither side. Many return sad from Apollo's oracle. Phoebus sometimes shoots a plague among us.
Neptune drowns more than he saves: to say nothing of those mischievous gods, Plutoes, Ates, punishments, favors, and the like, not gods but executioners. I am that only Folly that so readily and indifferently bestows my benefits on all. In a confrontation one or the other character may not care what happens to the bystanders.
Self-preservation can be a weakness, protection of the innocent a distraction. Best of all is to allow for our adversary enough rope to hang himself. We have been waiting, until now our frail billionaire, if he is even that, has by incessant lying escaped the inevitable. Fragile, petulant, quick to be psychologically wounded, his weaknesses are there for the world to see. The gleam on his allure dulls with time. Predictably he hits back at the least insult by returning all volley with a more squalid insult than the truth he has been forced to confront.
But, the counterpunching has made his challengers only more determined. But, it is. I am sure the blow to come will be a beauty, a real bolt out of the blue. We may not recognize that the punch has staggered our villain or that he is on the ropes groggy now and ready to take his inevitable fall for the count. The agony his election has caused bares too great a burden on our democracy. Had he the sense to have moved to the middle, to govern as promised on the stump, not betray his own not so well to do conservative voters.
Our boorish occupant of the Oval Office has an entire opposition party, a significant fraction of deputized investigators, forensic accountants and members of the free press delving into his darkest corners. The great orange one will soon be vanquished, it is obvious. He might have had a happier life, but there was this one last skirt to chase, one more sovereign private part to grab. Nobody is above the law or more equal than a mistreated-innocent-involuntarily hit-on woman. I see the end to a movie that ought never to have been made. Back East was once sufficiently far away.
Arriving on the opposite coast by cannabis infused Volkswagen bus was enough sudden enlightenment for a few spare decades prior to now. Fog was customary, winters more or less arrived on the clock, as did spring and the fierce belief that parking tickets would as if by magic just go away. Michael Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop arrived and remained. Lydia Pense fronting for Cold Blood replaced our Janis jones.
Weekends were spent in Mendocino. Weekdays we toiled as little as least as was possible. Before good booze there was strong booze. The hangover and squandering of wages and time we deluded ourselves into believing cost us next to nothing. There was a dot-com bubble, fern bar and the arrival and departure of the Fillmore to do. We did a lot of doing. Counterintuitively we altered the course of history first with Nixon and then Reagan. There was only one word left- taxes. Education and science once identified as progressive ghettos have been squeezed by conservative tourniquet.
The summers in the Loire were splendid. This and other circumstances we are no are longer in control of- take your pick- we have so many unsolved problems to ignore. I am imagining the wildfires while inconvenient will eventually after incinerating most of the what remains of California will go away. On the other hand our nations capital inhabited now, whether you voted for him or not, all agree I should think it unanimous, the current man about town has proven to be a particular kind of billionaire.
We have elected a vulgarian. Foul-mouthed, uncouth and loutish are terms that come to mind. This is that famous moment when we realize that this is the long spoken of hot water and we are all that unconscious amphibian resting in this pond of our own making as the temperatures rise. Instead this fall the Southland of California was treated to twenty degree above normal temperatures, low humidity and then the voluble Santa Ana winds. Last nights flight down the coast was crystal clear, picture perfect.
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While cool in Seattle less average was the clear sky. Less than common still was the monolithic singular cloudless atmosphere witnessed the entire length of the west coast. Looking down off the starboard side of the plane we could see flames approaching Carpentaria and further north near Montecito. The fire had in just twenty-four hours consumed another one-hundred-thousand acres with the most inhabited of those yet to be consumed acres in sight.
Both densely populated communities are thickly canopied and in any other moment would be regarded as blessed with a handsome landscape. Not visible were the five thousand firefighters who had cut fire breaks. Standing along the break they braced to snuff out blowing embers that might escape from the national forest and ignite a blaze within the city limits of the two communities. Thousands had been order evacuated. The Department of Homeland Security had no answer to this terror threat. There have always been wildfires, but there had always been a time of year associated with the fires.
In decades before the present California had grown to near forty million citizens. In past times the wildfires happened out there in the wildlands far from the California car crazed maddened clogging crowds. An unintentional a price had come due for our obsessive horizontal sprawling real estate development. And as we all know Mother Nature bats last in the game called life. In this instance wildfire had come to speak about the risks homeowners take when locating their domicile adjacent to a tender dry fuel loaded landscape that with one accidental spark and aided by an ill-timed windstorm can ignite an inferno of unstoppable proportions.
My much loved daughter in Seattle and her partner have put off any thought of having children. Stalemates are quaint even useful on a chessboard and existentially suicidal when played on the surface of the earth. Puerto Rico is in super hurricane ruins, barely able to function, its electrical grid destroyed. Houston pounded by rains and floods- turned into a lake and now is mecca for slightly water damaged furniture. California not to be outdone has put on a wildfire show unlike any other. How we react, what we do, the planning and precautions we might take will tell us all we need to know about how smart, how intelligent, how adaptive and resilient our species is.
If ever the world needed enlightened leadership now is that moment.