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[Written by a student while preparing for an examination in the Cartesian Philosophy.]


DEAR - : I really should have written to you before, if I had had any idea that you cared to hear from me. I am grieved to learn that you are having such a "glorious" time. The pursuit of happiness in this world is so fatally sure to end in bitter disappointment, that any transient glimpse of it which we may obtain only serves to make the final catastrophe less bearable. The great object in life - or rather of existence, for even our few moments of reasoning existence hardly deserve the name of life - I take to be somewhat as follows: in all things to approach as nearly as possible to perfect rest. If the hope of a future state of happiness is not the dream of a mere enthusiast, it is likely that that state will be one of entire physical and mental repose; we shall be in harmony with ourselves, the ego, and with everything not ourselves, the non-ego. Our own personalities will melt into all other personalities, and our bodies will become assimilated with other portions of matter. We shall form parts of one great whole, having none but common feelings, thoughts, and volitions. There will, therefore, be no conflicts, no jarrings, no disagreements, no emotions, no passions. It is obvious that our nearest approach to this state, at present, is in our sleep. In our sleep, says Sir Thomas Browne, we are somewhat more than ourselves, for sleep is the ligation of sense, but the liberation of reason.

Hence it is the part of a wise person to make his working conduct as like to his sleep as possible. Therefore, beware of every extreme. Avoid laughing, that you may not weep, - mirth, lest you become sad, - anger, that it may not return into your own heart, - joy, lest you find too soon that it stays not on the earth, - the excitement of wine, of music, or of company, for he who drinks of that cup shall find the dregs bitter. In all things seek regularity, for it is the surest destroyer of thought, and all thought leads to dissatisfaction. Arrange a system of hours which has no time allotted for reflection, and so you may escape it; for he who observes a perfect regularity, and fills his time with trifles, proceeds almost without thought, or at least accustoms his mind to a consideration of the trivial circumstances of each hour, and none other. He is not liable to gusts of feeling. Mingle only with the rich and the well-bred; for the rich will not annoy you with requests for favors, and the well-bred neither feel nor inspire emotion of any sort, and in so far are they philosophical. Avoid music, paintings of landscapes, and fine scenes in nature, for they have all suggestions of infinity; they breed longings, dissatisfactions, and often an idle love of beauty. A wise German once said of music, "Away! away! thou speakest to me of things which in all my endless life I have not found, and shall not find." This is true; therefore flee from music, as you value your peace of mind. And natural beauties contain the same danger.

If you have superiors in intellect or in character, avoid them; for they may inspire you with ambition, which is the most restless and - to one who holds my philosophy - the most uncomfortable and thankless of all passions. On the same principle, be much with your inferiors; then shall you set a guard about your contentment, and live unruffled in your own mind. Let your movements be slow and well considered. The connection of mind and body is a subtle one, and a quiet body will do much to make the mind quiet also. If a case of distress presents itself, relieve the sufferer, if you can do so conveniently; for the loss of money or of time is well repaid by the contentment of your mind which you thus protect. But this is advice to those who are soft-hearted. They who remain unmoved in the presence of suffering are to be envied, and you should seek to be like them; for they save both peace of mind and purse. In any case, keep away, as much as possible, from those who are ill off in mind or in body. Avoid the streets of poverty, and harrowing tales. Believe that all who are poor are dishonest and undeserving. In truth, there is much ground for such an opinion, and it is a great promoter of contentment. I have written hastily, but with the confidence of thoughtfulness and experience. I fear the general tone of my letter is too cheerful; but I will not rewrite it. I betake myself to seriousness, and strive to regain the apathy from which I have been aroused. With a greeting to your excellent brother, I am yours.

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