"If we abandon fidelity, for which we are formed, and make designs against our neighbour's wife, what are we doing?

What else but destroying and overthrowing? Whom? The man of fidelity, the man of modesty, the man of sanctity. Is this all? And are we not overthrowing neighbourhood, and friendship, and the community; and in what place are we putting ourselves? How shall I consider you? As a neighbour, as a friend? What kind? As a citizen? How can I trust you? If you were a utensil, you would be so worthless that no man could use you, and you would be thrown out on the dung heaps, and no man would pick you up. But, being a man, you are unable to fulfill any role which befits a man, what are we to do with you? Since you cannot hold the place of a friend, can you hold the place of a slave? Who will trust you? Is it not reasonable that you too should be pitched somewhere on a dung heap, as a useless utensil, and a bit of dung? But then you complain, "Doesn't anyone care about me"? They do not, because you are bad and useless. It is as if wasps complained that no man cares for them; if a man can, he strikes them and knocks them down. You have such a sting that you throw into trouble and pain any man that you wound with it. What would you have us do with you? You have no place where you can be put.

Epictetus, Discourses, Book 2, Chapter 4 (with minor alterations to, hopefully, make the language a little less stuffy without changing the meaning)

Epictetus was a Stoic philosopher and teacher. The Discourses are dated from the very turn of the 2nd century.

Comments

mattbg said…
The answer to his question -- "But, being a man, you are unable to fulfill any role which befits a man, what are we to do with you?" -- is we cut him off, and he just goes and finds other friends from further afield who aren't yet wise to his nature.

We don't really live in communities anymore, after all. We live in houses and we're loosely connected to others in a network -- others who are not too close, but close enough to be reachable by car. And when you're talking in terms of "car length" (the new "neighbour" is quite far away), there are so many people within reach that we can afford to backstab one or two.
Barbara said…
Coveting has been around for a long time -- witness the 10th commandment. Fortunately most societies still don't find it acceptable.
acey said…
very interesting discourse, richard!!!
Lust is but one of the seven sins of men - something that I have always wanted to write about.
Maybe this weekend.....?

Fidelity for many people - is a tall task. Temptations are everywhere and people are forever grasping to fulfil the desires of the moment than endure the state of not having and being contented with whatever they have.

The poor is tempted. The rich gets tempted even more.

I have so little faith in people.
Richard said…
mattbg: I think his rant was more flourishing rhetoric - it was in particular directed against some public official had committed adultery and had just entered into the auditorium

barbara: in some societies there is no concept of coveting (if sociologists are to be believed - hunter-gatherer societies tend to fall into this category).

acey: it certainly is very strong language.

elvina: there used to be more deadly sins, but it got cut down to 7. Lust is considered the least of the deadly sins (pride is the first and gluttony the 6th).

Is fidelity a tall task? You are right, one has to balance the desire of immediate indulgence against the longer term good (of course, we would first have to decide if fidelity is indeed good).

I believe Aristotle said something akin to: The poor steal from need and the rich from greed.

Blogging has restored my faith in people (but that could change at any moment). I find there are a lot of nice people out there, just they are scattered all over the globe rather than being accessible in my local community (ok, ok, there are nice people here too).

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