More Than Mere Bodies
At first glance it appears that speakers and practitioners of truth, religion and philosophy are often punished for their good works. Jesus Christ was crucified. An assassination plot drove Muhammad from Mecca to Medina. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were both assassinated. Socrates, of course, was sentenced to death. They burned Giordano Bruno at the stake. Pierre Bezukhov, having just rescued a little girl from death by fire and then defended an Armenian family from an unjust assault, is rewarded for his good deeds with arrest and imprisonment.
This is only the beginning of Pierre’s miseries. We’re now approaching the final stretch of the novel and, for Pierre at least, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. He’ll be starved, shackled and abused. There will be something curious to note though: The more suffering his body endures the closer he approaches a certain type of philosophical enlightenment.
The lesson here is that we are more than our bodies. Perhaps, then, after closer inspection, our favorite speakers and practitioners of truth, religion and philosophy did not truly suffer. For while their flesh was brutalized their ideas endured.
It is not possible that any evil can befall a good man. Opposites cannot combine. Just as the influx of so many streams and the downpour of so much rain and the flavor of so many mineral springs do not change the tang of the sea or even so much as dilute it, just so the assaults of adversity do not affect the spirit of a stalwart man. He maintains his poise and assimilates all that falls to his lot to his own complexion, for he is more potent than the world without. I do not maintain that he is insensible to externals, but that he overcomes them; unperturbed and serene, he rises to meet every sally. All adversity he regards as exercise.
Seneca, On Providence