The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

on leisure and reading

Remember, that it is not only the Desire of Riches and Power that renders us mean, and subject to others, but even of Quiet, and Leisure, and Learning, and Travelling. For, in general, valuing any external Thing whatever, subjects us to another. Where is the Difference, then, whether you desire to be a Senator, or not to be a Senator? Where is the Difference whether you desire Power, or to be out of Power? Where is the Difference whether you say, “I am in a wretched Way; I have nothing to do, but am tied down to Books as inactive as if I were dead;”——or, “I am in a wretched Way; I have no Leisure to read”? For as Levees and Power are among Things external, and Independent on Choice, so likewise is a Book. For what Purpose would you read? Tell me. For if you rest merely in being amused, and learning something, you are insignificant and miserable. But if you refer it to what you ought, what is that but a prosperous Life? And if Reading doth not procure you a prosperous Life, of what Use is it?

—Epictetus (Discourses, 4.4, trans. Elizabeth Carter)


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