He places no part of his happiness in ostentation, but in the secret approbation of his conscience, seeking the reward of his virtue, not in the clamorous applauses of the world, but in the silent satisfaction which results from having acted well.
This wisdom is coming from Letters of Pliny. He speaks about a friend, Titus Aristo, that is always happy. And where does this happiness come from? Not in fame or fortune. But, as Pliny puts it…
“…in the silent satisfaction which results from having acted well.”
This is generally true.
Happiness is complex. And many factors can ruin your day…or even your life. Yet, as a general rule, the perspective of any man is resting in his conscience. It’s resting in his commitment to virtue, or in the knowledge that he’s on the correct Highway of Life.
The stoic wisdom of Ancient Rome is an irony. On one hand, it comes from people that have been dead for hundreds of years…men that are long forgotten. And yet, the wisdom they share is timeless—it speaks to the life of a modern man.
Today we continue with the wisdom of ages. A favorite quote of mine from Marcus Aurelius in Meditations…one that I’ve shared with others for two decades:
Where does the common man go? Where does he live?
They [the common men] seek for themselves private retiring places, as country villages, the sea-shore, mountains; yea thou thyself art wont to long much after such places.
Yes, so true. We think that the mansion on the hill will make us happy. We believe that the Time Share in the Tropics will bring us inner peace. We seek the “country village, the sea-shore, mountains” and so forth. The more things change, the more they stay the same. In Ancient Rome, many thought that they could buy their way into happiness.
And he continues…
But all this thou must know proceeds from simplicity in the highest degree. At what time soever thou wilt, it is in thy power to retire into thyself, and to be at rest, and free from all businesses. A man cannot any whither retire better than to his own soul;
Retire into thyself and be at rest.
The mansion is lying within your breastplate…the stairwell to Xanadu, leading into your consciousness. We turn on the television, hoping for answers. We thumb the pages of a periodical, praying for solace. Yet so much is futile. The search will always lead to a mirror.
The greatest mansion you have is lying within your soul.