Gassendi’s Epicurus: Live Neither As A Lion Nor As A Gnat

From page 239 of Thomas Stanley’s translation of Gassendi.

I advise that every man should examine his own genius, and advise with himself, that he may apply himself to that which is proper for him; because otherwise, nothing can be more miserable, and more at a distance with tranquility, than to be engaged in a course of life for which nature hath rendered thee unfit. For neither is an active life to be undertaken by an unactive person, nor an unactive life by an active person.  To one, rest is quiet, and action is labour; to the other, rest is labour, and action quiet.  A timorous and soft person must avoid the military life; a bold and impatient, the easie; for one cannot brook war, nor the other peace.  The same it is in all the rest.  So that nothing can be more safe than to undertake that course only which though canst run through, without any reluctance or repugnance of nature. I shall only add this:  That every man, as far as lies in his power, to the end the state of life which he chooseth may be the more secure and quiet, ought to choose it mean, neither very eminent nor very abject.  For it behooves him to live in a civil society, neither as a Lion, nor as a Gnat, lest, resembling the one, he be cast out; the other, caught in a snare.

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