Self-Conceit

A homeless man in the suburbs of Madrid begged in a noble manner; a pedestrian tells him: “Aren’t you ashamed to practice such an infamous profession, although you could work ?”

“Sir,” answered the beggar, “I asked you for money, not for advice”; then he turned his back, preserving all his Castilian dignity.

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This homeless man was proud, and his vanity felt wounded for a trifle. He begged because of self-love, and he doesn’t stand to be reprimanded because of the same kind of self-love.

A missionary traveling in India met a fakir naked as a monkey, loaded with chains and  lying on the ground, and who was whipped for the sins of his Indian countrymen, instead receiving a few coins. “How self-sacrifice !”, the spectators said. “What self-sacrifice of myself ?”, replied the fakir. “Now find that I’m beaten in this world only to beat you in the other world where you will be horses and I ride”.

Those who said self-conceit was the base of all our feelings and all our actions, they were right in India, in Spain and throughout the inhabited earth; and how we don’t write to prove to people that they had faces, so there is no need to prove them they had self-conceit.

This self-conceit is the tool of our conversations; it is similar to the species perpetuation tool: it is necessary, we love it, it enjoy us, but we have to hide it.

from Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophique

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