Man is a Shadow

In what a kind of uncertainty do we live, when a man rises from his bed in the morning, to be uncertain of his return to rest again: or when he lies down to sleep, whether ever he shall rise. Well do the spaniards in their language call man a shadow, for in truth he is no more, his body being so frail and brittle, and exposed to so many dangers, that nothing is more to be admired, than that it should usually subsist so long.

As gold is purified in the furnace, so is the life of a good man purged by adversity…and as adversity and misfortunes have been to some men a means of their promotion, so has prosperity been to others an occasion of their misery.

Cardan, Three Books of Consolation

How Can He Be Happy That Never Felt Grief?

Among advantages which adversity has, this is not the least, that, a man’s misfortunate days once past, he lives the rest of his life with greater delight. Who can relish health, that has never been sick? Who knows the sweetness of his country, so well as he has been long abroad? Or who can take pleasure in riches but he that has been poor? As salt favors meat, so does past misery render our lives more pleasant.

Perhaps you will say i would have pleasure without pain: this is contrary to nature, for joy is continually attended by sorrow, glory with envy, wisdom is not gotten without labor, wealth is not obtained without care, children are kept with trouble, banqueting is attended by sickness, ease with poverty, power with envy, quiet with weariness. Everyman has something to complain of. Some are afflicted with poverty, others want children, this man is sick, that man wants a wife, and this man would be rid of his. But that which is most strange is, that to be happy and liable to no misfortune, is also a calamity.

How can he be happy that never felt grief. This is certain, that without adversity a man cannot live comfortably, nor take delight in mirth without some sorrow. And is it not a comfort in our calamity to have not only one man for a companion, but all mankind.

Truly the adversity of others, never made my misfortunes seem the less: but the unavoidableness of troubles, to which all naturally are subject, has much mitigated my private grieves. For who but a mad man will lament that which cannot be helped. A wise man considering the course of sublunary things, will expect any kind of mishap, and is prepared against the worst.

Cardan, Three Books of Consolation