Chance, Sickness, and Safe Passage Through the Storm

Plutarch, On Tranquility of Mind 475 d-f -476a

“Chance is also capable of afflicting us with sickness, stripping us of possessions, or bad-mouthing us to people or ruler. But it cannot make a good, brave, or great-souled person a wicked coward with a cheap mind. And chance cannot steal away the mindset which when always with is is of greater use in life than a captain upon the sea.

It is impossible for a captain to calm a rough wave and the wind and equally so to find a harbor when he needs it where he wants it. And he cannot face whatever happens fearlessly and steadfast. But, as long as he he does not forget himself and uses his skill, “he flees the clouded sea / once he has furled the sail to the lower mast”.

Whenever the sea looms over him, he sits in his shaking and trembles. But the mindset of the wise person provides the most calm to his bodily responses, eliminating the conditions of disease with self-control, a wise diet, and measured toils. Even if the cause of suffering comes from the outside there is a passage through the storm if “he endures it well with a light and drawn sailed” as Asclepiades says. But if something unexpected and serious overtakes him and overpowers, well, the harbor is close and he can still swim free of his body as from a ship that will float no more.”

καὶ γὰρ ἡ τύχη δύναται νόσῳ περιβαλεῖν, ἀφελέσθαι χρήματα, διαβαλεῖν πρὸς δῆμον ἢ τύραννον· κακὸν δὲ καὶ δειλὸν καὶ ταπεινόφρονα καὶ ἀγεννῆ καὶ φθονερὸν οὐ δύναται ποιῆσαι τὸν ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἀνδρώδη καὶ μεγαλόψυχον οὐδὲ παρελέσθαι τὴν διάθεσιν, ἧς ἀεὶ παρούσης πλέον ἢ κυβερνήτου πρὸς θάλατταν ὄφελός ἐστι πρὸς τὸν βίον. κυβερνήτῃ γὰρ οὔτε κῦμα πραῧναι τραχὺ καὶ πνεῦμα δυνατόν ἐστιν, οὔθ᾿ ὅποι βούλεται δεομένῳ λιμένος τυχεῖν οὔτε θαρραλέως καὶ ἀτρόμως ὑπομεῖναι τὸ συμβαῖνον· ἀλλ᾿ ἕως οὐκ ἀπέγνωκε τῇ τέχνῃ χρώμενος

φεύγει μέγα λαῖφος ὑποστολίσας εἰς ἐνέρτερον ἱστὸν / ἐρεβώδεος ἐκ θαλάσσης,

ἐπειδὰν δὲ τὸ πέλαγος ὑπέρσχῃ, τρέμων κάθηται καὶ παλλόμενος. ἡ δὲ τοῦ φρονίμου διάθεσις τοῖς τε σωματικοῖς παρέχει γαλήνην ἐπὶ πλεῖστον, ἐκλύουσα τὰς τῶν νόσων κατασκευὰς ἐγκρατείᾳ καὶ διαίτῃ σώφρονι καὶ μετρίοις πόνοις· κἄν τις ἔξωθεν ἀρχὴ πάθους ὥσπερ διαδρομὴ γένηται σπιλάδος, “εὐσταλεῖ καὶ κούφῃ κεραίᾳ παρήνεγκεν,” ὥς φησιν Ἀσκληπιάδης· παραλόγου δέ τινος καὶ μεγάλου καταλαβόντος καὶ κρατήσαντος, ἐγγὺς ὁ λιμὴν καὶ πάρεστιν ἀπονήξασθαι τοῦ σώματος ὥσπερ ἐφολκίου μὴ στέγοντος.

File:Boat Cdm Paris 322 n2.jpg
Boats Cup, c. 520 BCE

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