I am just returned from a run through the forest paths and farmer’s fields near my home. In springtime I run the risk of encountering every condition when I step out my door: though the sun is peeking out behind clouds when I set out, I may be confronted with a sudden squall of rain, by hail if I am unlucky, and wind that whips the treetops, not to mention my bare legs. This time I was blessed with all that nature has to offer, with the result that I got first overheated, then soaked, then chilled. I now warm myself with the prospect of a pleasant conversation with you, my dear Deuteros. Not a heated one, but one in which I can bask in the reflected glow of a point well-made and a connection made between minds.
Judging from your questions to my recent letter, I cannot take my rest yet, but will put my efforts to explaining one particular topic that seems to be bothering you. For you ask, “If the first order and second order pursuits are equally valuable, that means they are equally desirable. And if they are desirable, that means I should seek them out. But how does it make sense for me to welcome the ill-winds of conflict, to court obstacles, or to look for ill-health?”
I have learned physical endurance from my running training, and you have learned endurance of another kind reading my letters: patience with me getting to my point. So let me get straight to the substance here. Just like the courts draw a distinction between murder and manslaughter, though the victim is just as dead in both cases, so must you draw a distinction between these different circumstances, Deuteros. The state of mind is the key, your intentions are everything. Virtue lies not in hard circumstances themselves, but in being able to endure hardships without upset or complaint.
When you let reason rule your mind you will not prefer a fight, but you will address it head on when it cannot be avoided. You will not knowingly or unnecessarily make your path more difficult, nor will you complain about the obstacles you inevitably encounter. You do not welcome the fever you feel accompanying a cough, but you also do not recoil in terror at the thought of what you may have caught.
Imagine what a world it would be if we could only find value in things that were pleasant and easy! How many would suffer without end, because it is the fate of many to be without pleasant and easy times. There is virtue in rising to your circumstances, whatever they may be. The things you work the hardest for are consequently easiest to see the value in. Meet your challenges openly, calmly, with reason ruling your passions, and you will be rewarded with a well-ordered mind that brings peace, no matter the chaos you find yourself in.
I reward your attention today by stopping, lest I run on in this letter like I have done before.