« VorigeDoorgaan »
all these studies, not indeed that they may grow wiser, but simply to prove that they know them; these are the most foolish of the band, because they are so wittingly, whereas it is reasonable to suppose of the others, that were they but aware of it, they would give over their folly.
A man passes his life without weariness in playing every day for a small stake. Give him each morning, on condition he does not play, the money he might possibly win, and you make him miserable. It will be said, perhaps, that he seeks the amusement of play, and not the winnings. Make him then play for nothing, he will not be excited over it, and will soon be wearied. Mere diversion then is not his pursuit, a languid and passionless amusement will weary him. He must grow warm in it, and cheat himse by thinking that he is made happy by gaining what he would despise if it were given him not to play; and mus frame for himself a subject of passion and excitement to employ his desire, his wrath, his fear, as children are frightened at a face themselves have daubed.
Whence comes it that a man who within a few months has lost his only son, or who this morning was overwhelmed with law suits and wrangling, now thinks of them no more? Be not surprised; he is altogether taken up with looking out for the boar which his hounds have been hunting so hotly for the last six hours. He needs no more. However full of sadness a man may be, he is happy for the time, if you can only get him to enter into some diversion. And however happy a man may be, he will soon become dispirited and miserable if he be not diverted and occupied by some passion or pursuit which hinders his being over come by weariness. Without diversion no joy, with diversion no sadness. And this forms the happiness of persons in high position, that they have a number of people to divert them, and that they have the power to keep themselves in this state.
Take heed to this. What is it to be superintendent, chancellor, first president, but to be in a condition wherein from early morning a vast number of persons flock in from every side, so as not to leave them an hour in the day in which they can think of themselves? And if they are in
disgrace and dismissed to their country houses, though they want neither wealth nor retinue at need, they yet are miserable and desolate because no one hinders them from thinking of themselves.
Thus man is so unhappy that he wearies himself without cause of weariness by the peculiar state of his temperament, and he is so frivolous that, being full of a thousand essential causes of weariness, the least thing, such as a cue and a ball to strike with it, is enough to divert him.
Diversions.-Men are charged from infancy with the care of their honour, their fortunes, and their friends, and more, with the care of the fortunes and honour of their friends. They are overwhelmed with business, with the study of languages and bodily exercises; they are given to understand that they cannot be happy unless their health, their honour, their fortune and that of their friends be in good condition, and that a single point wanting will render them unhappy. Thus we give them business and occupations which harass them incessantly from the very dawn of day. A strange mode, you will say, of making them happy. What more could be done to make them miserable? What could be done? We need only release them from all these cares, for then they would see themselves; they would think on what they are, whence they come, and whither they go, and therefore it is impossible to occupy and distract them too much. This is why, after having provided them with constant business, if there be any time to spare we urge them to employ it in diversion and in play, so as to be always fully occupied.
How comes it that this man, distressed at the death of his wife and his only son, or who has some great and embarrassing law suit, is not at this moment sad, and that he appears so free from all painful and distressing thoughts? We need not be astonished, for a ball has just been served to him, and he must return it to his opponent. His whole thoughts are fixed on taking it as it falls from the penthouse, to win a chase; and you cannot ask that he should think on his business, having this other affair in hand. Here is
a care worthy of occupying this great soul, and taking away from him every other thought of the mind. This man, born to know the Universe, to judge of all things, to rule a State, is altogether occupied and filled with the business of catching a hare. And if he will not abase himself to this, and wishes always to be highly strung, he will only be more foolish still, because he wishes to raise himself above humanity; yet when all is said and done he is only a man, that is to say capable of little and of much, of all and of nothing. He is neither angel nor brute, but man.
One thought alone occupies us, we cannot think of two things at once; a good thing for us, from a worldly point of view, but not as regards God.
Diversion.-Death is easier to bear without the thought of it, than is the thought of death without danger.
Diversion. Men, unable to remedy death, sorrow, and ignorance, determine, in order to make themselves happy, not to think on these things.
Notwithstanding these miseries, man wishes to be happy, and wishes for happiness only; unable to wish otherwise, he knows not how to gain happiness. For this he must needs make himself immortal; but unable to effect this, he sets) himself to avoid the thought of death.
The miseries of human life are the cause of all this; having a perception of them men take to diversion.
Diversion. If man were happy he would be the more the less he was diverted, like the Saints and God.
Yes: but is not the power of being pleased with diversion in itself a happiness? No; for that comes from elsewhere and from without, so it is dependent, and therefore liable to be troubled by a thousand accidents, which make afflictions inevitable.
Misery. The one thing which consoles us for our miseries is diversion, yet this itself is the greatest of our miseries. For this it is which mainly hinders us from thinking of
ourselves, and which insensibly destroys us. Without this we should be weary, and weariness would drive us to seek a more abiding way out of it. But diversion beguiles us and leads us insensibly onward to death.
This is all they have been able to discover to console them in so many evils. But it is a miserable consolation, since it does not serve for the cure of the evil, but simply for the concealment of it for a short time, and its very concealment prevents the thought of any true cure. Thus by a strange inversion of man's nature he finds that the weariness which is his most sensible evil, is in some measure his greatest good, because more than any thing else it contributes to make him seek his true healing, and that the diversion which he regards as his greatest good is in fact his greatest evil, because more than any thing else it prevents his seeking the remedy for his evils. Both of these are admirable proofs of man's misery and corruption, and at the same time of his greatness, since man is only weary of all things, and only seeks this multitude of occupations because he has the idea of a lost happiness. And not finding this in himself, he seeks it vainly in external things, without being able to content himself, because it is neither in us, nor in the creature, but in God alone.
Thoughts. In omnibus requiem quæsivi.
Were our condition truly happy we need not turn our minds from it in order to become happy.
A little matter consoles us, because a little matter afflicts
Strife alone pleases us and not the victory. We like to see beasts fighting, not the victor furious over the vanquished. We wish only to see the victorious end, and as soon as it comes, we are surfeited. It is the same in play, and in the search for truth. In all disputes we like to see the clash of opinions, but care not at all to contemplate truth when found. If we are to see truth with pleasure, we must see it arise out of conflict.
So in the passions, there is pleasure in seeing the shock
of two contraries, but as soon as one gains the mastery it becomes mere brutality. We never seek things in themselves, but only the search for things. So on the stage quiet scenes which raise no emotion are worthless, so is extreme and hopeless misery, so are brutal lust and excessive cruelty.
Continuous eloquence wearies.
Princes and kings sometimes unbend. They are not for ever on their thrones, where they grow weary. Grandeur to be felt must be abandoned, continuity in anything is displeasing. Cold is pleasant, that we may seek warmth.
Weariness. Nothing is so insupportable to man as to be completely at rest, without passion, without business, without diversion, without study. He then feels his nothingness, his loneliness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his weakness, his emptiness.
At once, from the depth of his soul, will arise weariness, gloom, sadness, vexation, disappointment, despair.
Agitation. When a soldier complains of his work, or a ploughman, etc., force them to be idle.
Diversion. Is not the royal dignity itself so truly great as to make its possessor happy by the mere contemplation of what he is? Must he be diverted from this thought like ordinary people? I see well enough that a man may be made happy by diverting him from the thought of his domestic sorrows so that he apply all his care to excel in dancing. But will it be the same with a king, and will he be happier if he devote himself to these idle amusements rather than to the contemplation of his greatness? And what more satisfactory object can he offer to his mind? Might it not be to lessen his content that he occupy his soul in thinking how to suit his steps to the cadence of an air, or how to throw a bar skilfully, rather than allow it to enjoy peacefully the contemplation of the majesty which wraps him round? Let us make the experiment, let us leave a king all alone, without any gratifications of sense,