Letter Of Consolation
Written By: Samantha Woolman
Grade: 11th Grade
Teacher: Mr. Lockridge
Class: US Medieval Literature: Section 1: 2018 – 2019
My dear Sophia,
As you know, news has a way of traveling quickly. Unpleasant tidings have a habit of traveling perhaps the fastest of them all, and word gets around even in prison. For these reasons I soon received word of the repose of your close companions Harmony and Celia. I offer my sincerest condolences to you. I understand only too well the shock of one’s life being suddenly and harshly overturned because of an unforeseen event.
I once had the busy and rewarding life of a Roman senator, consul, and philosopher. My days were filled with thinking and governing until the rumor began to spread that I had formed a conspiracy against Theodoric the Great. I was seized and imprisoned in this miserable pit under accusations of treason. My life and reputation had been changed forever and I was left alone in a cold, damp cell. During my time here, I began to feel disheartened. There was nothing to encourage me, nothing to give me a glimpse of hope that I might one day be released from this grueling place. My happiness slipped away from me and gave way to despair. I took to writing down my thoughts with pen and parchment as this seemed to help relieve the dismal atmosphere.
One day, as I was in the midst of recording my gloomy musings, a lady of grand stature and elegance appeared to me. She possessed a sense of splendor and authority unlike any other I had seen. I will undoubtedly never lay eyes on a person as stately and noble as she. To continue my story, however, this Lady Philosophy proceeded to tell me that she had remedies and medicines to cure my pitiful state. Throughout the following hours or days or weeks (I know not how much time had passed while we spoke), she revealed the secrets of true happiness, the nature of the substance of evil, and free will.
Lady Philosophy brought comfort and hope to me, and I wish to do the same for you in a similar manner. I will give you an outline of the causes of happiness so that you may find it for yourself. A valuable secret that Lady Philosophy shared with me was this: wealth, power, fame, and pleasure will not bring a person happiness. Though many people are caught up in this misleading conclusion, these substances and feelings last but a fleeting moment and bring only temporary delight.
Wealth promises self-sufficiency and freedom from want. It does not, however, fulfill its promises. How can it, when a person will always hunger for greater wealth once he tastes the honeyed, tainted lie of it? There will always be just a bit more money within reach, just a bit more luxury in store. This quickly leads men to become greedy, selfish, and unhappy. Power does not always bring a simultaneous deservance of respect. If a man in power comes in contact with a group or individual who does not recognize (or know of) his authority, he will not gain any additional respect to make him happy. Fame is built upon the opinions of people. The opinions of these people are often deceived, and are therefore worthless in properly commending a person for the good things he has done. There is not a good way to ensure that every single person on the earth will have heard about a particular famous man, even if he rightly deserves the fame. Fame has similar faults and shortcomings as power. Pleasure and the fulfillment of bodily needs does not provide true happiness because they are short-lived. Remorse often follows the initial burst of cheerfulness if a man chases after only his physical and bodily desires. As the wise Lady says of these false advertisements of happiness “The sum of all this is that because they can neither produce the good they promise nor come to perfection by the combination of all good, these things are not the way to happiness and cannot by themselves make people happy.”
Now that I have explained what to avoid in your pursuit of comfort and happiness, you are most assuredly wondering what holds the secret of happiness. I have come to realize that true happiness is that what makes a person self-sufficient, strong, worthy of respect, glorious, and joyful. As you may have noticed, the aforementioned list contains things that are intrinsically good. In order to gain these good things for oneself (and thus obtain perfect happiness), one must pray and look up to the Supreme Good. For from Him flows all good things. Because perfect good is true happiness, and God is a Perfect Good, true happiness is found in the Supreme and Perfect Good. Lady Philosophy explained it much better than I when she said “As to where it is to be found, then, you should think as follows. It is the universal understanding of the human mind that God, the author of all things, is good. Since nothing can be conceived better than God, everyone agrees that that which has no superior is good. Reason shows that God is so good that we are convinced that His goodness is perfect. Otherwise He couldn’t be the author of creation. There would have to be something else possessing perfect goodness over and above God, which would seem to be superior to Him and of Great antiquity. For all perfect things are obviously superior to those that are imperfect. Therefore, to avoid an unending argument, it must be admitted that the supreme God is to the highest degree filled with supreme and perfect goodness. But we have agreed that perfect good is true happiness; so that it follows that true happiness is to be found in the supreme God.”
In every human being there is an inherent desire for good. Since evil is a privation of good, evil men have simply fallen away from what is natural and have been caught up in what is unnatural. When men seek happiness, they are seeking the Supreme Good. When men seek the Supreme Good, they will always find it. When they have found the good in the world, true and perfect happiness will follow. As each of us possesses the freedom of will, take heart, my sister, and seek the Good so that you also may find comfort and genuine happiness.
Your brother Boethius