irrelevant fiction as our own Electoral College. There isnlittle point in blaming the Stoics for their lack of patriotismnor their cosmopolitan indifference to all those myths ofnblood and soil that had given rise to Hellenic civilization.nThe important feature of Stoicism was not that it taughtnpeople to be locally irresponsible “citizens of the wodd,” butnthat it instructed them in the duties and responsibilities ofnwhatever station they found themselves in. “Every hour,”ncounseled the Emperor Marcus, “consider sturdily as anRoman and as a man that which is in your hands to do,nscrupulously, and with unfeigned seriousness, compassion,nfreedom, and justice.”nIt was this philosophy that the Romans, whose uppernclasses remained civic-minded even under the empire,nmanaged to transform from a creed of passive individualismnto an armed doctrine of civil responsibility. The mostnhumane of the Romans — himself no Stoic but “a pig fromnEpicurus’ sty” — was a freedman’s son with an almostnChristian notion of resignation:nAequam memento rebus in arduisnServare mentem. . . .nIn my own version of Horace, I would say: accept the goodnthings without gloating and endure evils if not withoutncomplaining, at least without pillorying the universe fornletting you down.nThis is not a question of equanimity, as my friends andnenemies alike will tell you. It is really more resignation thanneven temper that affords me a certain willingness to acceptnthings as they are and observe events from whatever place Infind myself in. What is the alternative? Spend your lifenbrooding over the criminal misconduct of the AmericannCongress or tracing the stream of poisons that gush throughnthe aquifer? We have no control over such things. Politics isnthe concern of a free people; imperial subjects are lucky —nvery lucky, indeed — if they can carve out some small nichenwhere their decisions count for something. Rear yournchildren, meet your obligations, and let the empire take carenof itself Be content: although scum generally risesi to thentop, in the end it is always skimmed off and thrown; away.nFor as far back as I can remember, I have always knownnthat I was born into the wrong period of history, but it hasnalways been my opinion that most people born into thisncentury are actually displaced persons, who deserve a betternfate than modernity. Part of this is the natural condition ofnmen and women, whose hard lot it is to be torn between twonworlds: the world of everyday experience in which ournbodies are at home, and that other wodd, that land of heart’sndesire from which our spirits are exiled:nEver-blooming are the joys of heaven’s highnparadise.nCold age deafs not there our ears nor vapours dimnour eyes.nGlory there the sun outshines, whose beams thenblessed only see.nBut, as this world spins further and further out of the orbit ofnits star, we find ourselves less and less at home. We arenresident aliens in our own country, and one place can be asngood as another, if all we require is a seat in the windownfrom which we can watch the world go by.nIn my own case, they have not been particulariy interestingnplaces: a dying city at the end of the Great Lakes,ncollege towns, suburbs, a shrimping village, Rockford. Onnthe few occasions that I was actually able to decide upon anplace to live, nothing turned out as I had planned. Either mynresolve weakened and I did not move to Nova Scotia, or thendestiny that I thought I held was ripped from my hands bynthe winds of cause and effect that blow from who knowsnwhat caves of what malevolent gods. I moved back tonCharleston to escape the futility of teaching only to findnmyself responsible for educating a hundred children fromnfive to eighteen in a village that is as much the antithesis ofnCharleston as any place in low country South Carolina cannbe. I went to San Francisco to be part of the new life of thenlate 60’s and spent most of my days reading Tacitus, JamesnThompson, and Lionel Johnson on the roof of a retirementnhotel that seemed to exist only to abuse Social Securitynpensioners.nSome would say, especially if they have been readingnNietzsche, that such temperaments reflect an inability ton”say yes to life.” That is probably true enough, but in myncase at least I have never been able to say no either. Why is itnthat on my first day in a strange city, I am sure to be askedndirections? In Pisa last summer I was badgered by annofficious group of arrogant tourists who demanded to knownwhere the touray pahndahntay was. After several minutes ofnmutually incomprehensible conversation, I guessed — lantour pendente? Their Franco-Italian was even worse thannmy Americo-Italian.nI must have an open countenance — I know it is not anninviting one — and when I am asked a question on the streetnI always stop. This is not always a good idea in New York,nwhere you are likely to hear a story that sounds like the lastnwords of Dutch Schultz (which Dwight McDonald interpretednas unintended parody of Joyce). I have been muggedntwice, as I began to explain that I did not have any sparenchange, at least not for people who were so importunate inntheir demands. Worse than being mugged, I have beenndragged into things. What sort of things? Everything from anDaishonin Buddhist indoctrination session to a wine party innthe alley behind what would then have been called a coloredngrocery store.nThinking about these incidents, I am reminded ofnKenneth Patchen’s “shy pornographer” whose last namenwas Budd. Anytime he heard someone call out, “Got anmatch, bud?” he assumed it was someone who knew him.nIn his case, innocence brought him fame and fortune as thenonly pornographer who had never written a dirty word. Hisnpublisher inserted a lot of asterisks and exclamation marks —npresumptive expletives deleted — into the text of his otherwisenentirely wholesome Perry Mason novel. I know thenfeeling. There are professional conservatives in Washingtonnwho work overtime to find subliminal hate messages bynreading Chronicles backward at a lower speed.nI used to have a friend who was an absolute paragon ofnpassivity. He would spend days dreaming up perfect bookntitles, without ever getting around to writing even the firstnsentence. He did once conceive of a whole book project onnAmerican assassins and went so far as to look up thennewspaper files on McKinley and Garfield. We went to thenlibrary and checked out the stories in the encyclopedias andnnnDECEMBER 1990/13n