Privacy is a kindness of the soul that we ought to show both to those we know and to those we come across. It is also a right we are entitled to, and it’s never pleasant to be forced to demand it, since that spoils the charm of its pure sincerity.
Privacy safeguards our intimate sphere; we need the right amount of privacy in order to harmonize our public and private spheres.
Both our public and private lives are essential, but they benefit our well-being only when there is an appropriate balance between the two.
The wise Epicurus clarified better than many others that the right balance is lost when our public life becomes predominant; discomfort arises because we are deprived of our leisure time, which we need in order to rest our soul. We need time to rest.
For our ancestors and for the Romans, idleness - or the time spent away from public life - was a great opportunity to be alone, to lift one’s spirits, study and elaborate one’s thoughts. It was a time used for developing ideals, because everything that took place during those idly active moments was free from the need to achieve something.
For us too, idly thinking, writing, and reading are like buds of knowledge, and food for the gods.
When our privacy is infringed on, “otium in litteris” (the pleasure of literature and erudition) vanishes like a daydream.
Alfieri made a powerful statement to protect his own privacy, which had been threatened by others’ lack of discretion. He drew an extraordinarily clearcut line between the “public man” and being “one’s own master at least at home”.