The House is Dark

“Let us add one more story close to this subject, which Seneca tells in one of his letters. ‘You know’, he says, writing to Lucilius, ‘that Harpaste, my wife’s fool, has stayed at my house as a hereditary charge, for my own taste sets me against these monsters; and if I have a mind to laugh at a fool, I do not have to look far for one, I laugh at myself. This fool has suddenly lost her sight. I am telling you something strange, but true. She does not realize that she is blind, and constantly urges her keeper to take her out, because she says my house is dark. What we laugh at in her, I pray you to believe happens to each one of us: no one knows that he is avaricious or covetous. The blind at least ask for a guide; we go astray of our own accord. I am not ambitious, we say, but in Rome you cannot live otherwise; I am not extravagant, but the city requires great expense; it is not my fault if I am choleric, if I have not yet set up any definite way of life — it is the fault of youth. Let us not look for our disease outside of ourselves; it is within us, it is planted in our entrails. And the very fact that we do not realize that we are sick makes our cure more difficult. If we do not soon begin to tend ourselves, when will we have provided for so many sores and so many maladies? Yet we have a very sweet medicine in philosophy. For of the others we feel the pleasure only after the cure; this one pleases and cures at the same time’.” (Montaigne, Essays, tr. Frame)