Signifying Nothing

When King Pyrrhus was undertaking his expedition into Italy, Cyneas, his wise counselor, wanting to make him feel the vanity of his ambition, asked him: ‘Well, Sire, to what purpose are you setting up this great enterprise?’ ‘To make myself master of Italy,’ he immediately replied. ‘And then,’ continued Cyneas, ‘when that is done?’ ‘I shall pass over into Gaul and Spain,’ said the other. ‘And after that?’ ‘I shall go and subdue Africa; and finally, when I have brought the world under my subjection, I shall rest and live content and at my ease.’

‘In God’s name, Sire,’ Cyneas then retorted, ‘tell me what keeps you from being in that condition right now, if that is what you want. Why don’t you settle down at this very moment in the state you say you aspire to, and spare yourself all the intervening toil and risks?’

— Montaigne, “Of the Inequality Amongst Us,” 1580