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7. For the sake of feeling confidence and security in regard to other men, some men wish to be eminent and powerful, failing to remember the limits of kingly power. If such men happen to achieve a life of safety, then they have attained their goal, which is a good. But if their lives are not in fact safe, they have failed in obtaining the goal for the sake of which they originally desired power, and that is the result that generally occurs according to Nature.
Alternate Translations: Bailey: Some men wished to become famous and conspicuous, thinking that they would thus win for themselves safety from other men. Wherefore if the life of such men is safe, they have obtained the good which nature craves; but if it is not safe, they do not possess that for which they strove at first by the instinct of nature. Yonge: Some men wished to become famous and conspicuous, thinking that they would thus win for themselves safety from other men. Wherefore if the life of such men is safe, they have obtained the good which nature craves, but if it is not safe, they do not possess that for which they strove at first by the instinct of nature. Strodach: Some men have desired to gain reputation and to be well regarded, thinking in this way to gain protection from other people. If the lives of such men are secure, they have acquired a natural blessing; but if they are not, they do not possess what they originally reached for by natural instinct.
Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book V: For a man who orders his life by the rule of true reason, a frugal subsistence joined to a contented mind is for him great riches, as never is there any lack of a little. But some men desire to be famous and powerful in order that their fortunes might rest on a firm foundation, and that they might be able by their wealth to lead a tranquil life. This is in vain, since their struggle to mount up to the heights of power renders their path full of danger. Even if they reach it, envy, like a thunderbolt, strikes them from the summit and dashes them down with ignominy into the roar of Tartarus. The highest summits are often blasted by envy as if by a thunderbolt, so it is better to obey in peace and quiet than to wish to rule with supreme power and be the master of kingdoms. Such men wear themselves out to no purpose and sweat drops of blood as they struggle on the road of ambition, since they gather their knowledge from the mouths of others and follow after hearsay, rather than following the dictates of their own feelings. This course does not prevail now, nor will it prevail in the future any more than it has prevailed in the past.
Cicero’s Defense of Epicurus: And always there is death, the stone of Tantalus ever hanging over men’s heads, and then there is religion, that poisons and destroys all peace of mind. Fools do not recall their past happiness or enjoy their present blessings – they only look forward to the desires of the future, and as the future is always uncertain, they are consumed with agony and terror. And the climax of their torment is when they perceive, too late, that all their dreams of wealth or station, power or fame, have come to nothing. For fools can never hold the pleasures for which they hoped, and for which they were inspired to undergo all their arduous toils.
Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book II: It is sweet, when on the great sea the winds trouble its waters, to behold from land another’s deep distress; not that it is a pleasure or a delight that any should be afflicted, but because it is sweet to see from what evils you are yourself exempt. It is sweet also to look upon the mighty struggles of armies arrayed along the plains without sharing yourself in the danger. But nothing is more welcome than to hold lofty and serene positions well fortified by the learning of the wise. From here you may look down upon others and see them wandering, going astray in their search for the path of life, and contesting among themselves their intellect, the rivalry of their birth, their striving night and day with tremendous effort to struggle up to the summit of power and be masters of the world. O miserable minds of men! O blinded hearts! In what darkness of life and in what great danger is passed this term of life whatever its duration. How can you choose not to see that Nature craves for herself no more than this: that the body feel no pain, and the mind enjoy a feeling of pleasure exempt from care and fear?
Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book III: In life, too, we have a Sisyphus before our eyes. Such is the man who is bent on seeking political office, constantly seeking political power, but who always retires defeated and disappointed. To ask for power, empty as it is, but to never find it despite the constant chase for it – this is forcing uphill a stone which, after all one’s effort, rolls back again from the summit and in headlong haste finds once again the levels of the plain.
Vatican Saying 58: We must free ourselves from the prison of public education and politics.