#MondayMotivation: Where Does Happiness Come From?

The following essay by Dio Chrysostom is fragmentary. I can imagine where it goes from where it starts, but I might be wrong. One of the seductive things about fragments is their lure to be ‘completed’ or ‘restored’. Here’s one about happiness–a topic perhaps profitably left unfinished for each of us to write our own endings.

Dio Chrysostom, 24 Discourse on Happiness

“The majority of people have generally given no thought regarding what kind of people they should be nor what at all is best for a person, nor what it is right to do in all other things. Instead, they have spent their lives in private pursuits—some dedicate themselves to horses; others to military leadership; others to athletic competition. Some are devoted to music; while others look to farming; and others to being able to speak well. But they neither know nor try to figure out what use each of these pursuits has for them or what profit might come from it.

As a result, while some people do become good horsemen—the kinds of people who love to work at it and care about it completely—and while others are better than some at wrestling and boxing, and running, and the rest of the athletic games, or in not screwing up planting, or sailing without ruining a ship, and some know the matters of the art of better than others—it is not possible to find among them a good and prudent man who also knows what makes a good and intelligent person.

Start first with the example of oratory—there are many people altogether of noble families who also seem to be ambitious who are dedicated to it so much that they compete in public courts, even speaking to the people and because of this have gained more than others and can do what they want while others [endeavor] so that they might be considered clever on account of the fame of their field.

But there are some people who say that they want what they get from experience, and some of these are speakers some are only writers, people whom someone of former times said were on the border of philosophy and politics. Whatever advantage their work brings them or what use their reputation is or what the profit of their experience might be, they do not examine.

But I claim that all the rest is worthless without this kind of care and examination  For the person who has considered and understood this, it is clear that the advantage of public speaking or military leadership or any other thing we do comes when it it directed towards good.

For being praised by ignorant people in itself—for most people are like that—or having power among them or living pleasurably will not bring any more happiness than being rebuked by these people, having no power among them, or living a hard life.”

Οἱ πολλοὶ ἄνθρωποι καθόλου μὲν οὐδὲν πεφροντίκασιν ὁποίους χρὴ εἶναι οὐδὲ ὅ τι βέλτιστον ἀνθρώπῳ ἐστίν, οὗ ἕνεκα χρὴ πάντα τἄλλα πράττειν, ἰδίᾳ δὲ ἐσπουδάκασιν οἱ μὲν ἱππεύειν, οἱ δὲ στρατηγεῖν, οἱ δὲ περὶ ἀγωνίαν, οἱ δὲ περὶ μουσικήν, ἄλλοι περὶ γεωργίαν, ἄλλοι δύνασθαι λέγειν. ἥντινα δὲ χρείαν αὐτοῖς ἔχει τούτων ἕκαστον ἢ τί τὸ ὄφελος ἐξ αὐτοῦ γίγνοιτ᾿ ἄν, οὐκ ἴσασιν οὐδὲ ζητοῦσιν. τοιγαροῦν ἱππεῖς μὲν ἀγαθοὶ γίγνονταί τινες, οἳ ἂν φιλοπονῶσιν αὐτὸ καὶ ἐκμελετῶσι, καὶ παλαῖσαι ἄλλοι ἄλλων ἱκανώτεροι καὶ πυκτεῦσαι καὶ δραμεῖν καὶ τἄλλα ἀγωνίσασθαι, καὶ τοῦ σπόρου μὴ διαμαρτεῖν, καὶ πλέοντες μὴ διαφθεῖραι τὴν ναῦν, καὶ τὰ κατὰ μουσικήν τινες ἐπίστανται βέλτιον ἑτέρων· ἀγαθὸν δὲ ἄνδρα καὶ φρόνιμον, καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο εἰδότα ὅστις ἐστὶν ὁ χρηστὸς ἀνὴρ καὶ νοῦν ἔχων, οὐδένα τούτων ἔστιν εὑρεῖν.

Αὐτίκα περὶ τὸ λέγειν πάντως ἐσπουδάκασι πολλοὶ τῶν ἐλευθέρων, καὶ φιλοτίμων εἶναι δοκούντων, οἱ μὲν ὥστε ἐν δικαστηρίοις ἀγωνίζεσθαι, καὶ πρὸς δῆμον λέγοντες, διὰ δὲ τοῦτο ἰσχύειν πλέον τῶν ἄλλων καὶ πράττειν ὅ τι ἂν αὐτοὶ θέλωσιν, οἱ δὲ τῆς δόξης ἕνεκα τῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ πράγματος, ὅπως δεινοὶ νομίζωνται. τινὲς δὲ αὐτῆς φασι τῆς ἐμπειρίας ἐπιθυμεῖν, καὶ τούτων οἱ μὲν λέγοντες, οἱ δὲ συγγράφοντες μόνον, οὓς ἔφη τις τῶν πρότερον μεθόρια εἶναι τῶν φιλοσόφων καὶ τῶν πολιτικῶν. ὅτι δὲ συμφέρει πράττουσιν ἢ πρὸς ὅ τι ἡ δόξα αὐτοῖς ὠφέλιμος ἢ τί τῆς ἐμπειρίας ταύτης ὄφελος, οὐ σκοποῦσιν.

Ἐγὼ δέ φημι πάντα τἄλλα δίχα τῆς τοιαύτης ἐπιμελείας καὶ ζητήσεως ὀλίγου ἄξια εἶναι, τῷ δὲ ἐκεῖνο ἐννοήσαντι καὶ ξυνέντι, τούτῳ καὶ τὸ λέγειν καὶ τὸ στρατηγεῖν καὶ ὅ τι ἂν ἄλλο ποιῇ, ξυμφέρον τε εἶναι καὶ ἐπ᾿ ἀγαθῷ γίγνεσθαι. ἐπεὶ τό γε ἐπαινεῖσθαι καθ᾿ ἑαυτὸ ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων ἀνοήτων, οἷοίπερ εἰσὶν οἱ πολλοί, ἢ τὸ δύνασθαι ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις ἢ τὸ ἡδέως ζῆν οὐδὲν ἂν διαφέροι πρὸς εὐδαιμονίαν τοῦ ψέγεσθαι καὶ μηδὲν ἰσχύειν καὶ ἐπιπόνως ζῆν.

Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 174, detail of f. 3r (Isis gathering Osiris’ body parts). Boccaccio, Des cas des nobles hommes et femmes. 15th century

Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 174, detail of f. 3r (Isis gathering Osiris’ body parts)

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: