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Epicurus letter to Menoeceus   


of death. He has diligently considered the end fixed by nature, and
understands how easily the limit of good things can be reached and
attained, and how either the duration or the intensity of evils is but
slight. Destiny which some introduce as sovereign over all things, he
laughs to scorn, affirming rather that some things happen of
necessity, others by chance, others through our own agency. For he
sees that necessity destroys responsibility and that chance or fortune
is inconstant; whereas our own actions are free, and it is to them
that praise and blame naturally attach. It were better, indeed, to
accept the legends of the gods than to bow beneath destiny which the
natural philosophers have imposed. The one holds out some faint hope
that we may escape if we honor the gods, while the necessity of the
naturalists is deaf to all entreaties. Nor does he hold chance to be a
god, as the world in general does, for in the acts of a god there is
no disorder; nor to be a cause, though an uncertain one, for he
believes that no good or evil is dispensed by chance to people so as
to make life happy, though it supplies the starting-point of great
good and great evil. He believes that the misfortune of the wise is
better than the prosperity of the fool. It is better, in short, that
what is well judged in action should not owe its successful issue to
the aid of chance.

Exercise yourself in these and kindred precepts day and night, both by
yourself and with him who is like to you; then never, either in waking
or in dream, will you be disturbed, but will live as a god among
people. For people lose all appearance of mortality by living in the
midst of immortal blessings.

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