Posts

Enchiridion 16: Stop Distressing Yourself

Image
"When you see anyone weeping in grief because his son has gone abroad, or is dead, or because he has suffered in his affairs, be careful that the appearance may not misdirect you. Instead, distinguish within your own mind, and be prepared to say, 'It's not the accident that distresses this person, because it doesn't distress another person; it is the judgment which he makes about it.' As far as words go, however, don't reduce yourself to his level, and certainly do not moan with him. Do not moan inwardly either." (Epictetus, Enchiridion 16)



Think of this as a case study: someone you know is in some kind of distress. What do you do? What should you say? Stoic philosophy provides a lens through which one may view and choose as it is not external matters that negatively affect you, but the judgment about those matters.

So what steps do we take when facing an external event? What is the source of harm or negative effect on you?

First (in this case) recognize …

Enchiridion 15: Life As A Dinner Party

"Remember that you must behave in life as at a dinner party. Is anything brought around to you? Put out your hand and take your share with moderation. Does it pass by you? Don't stop it. Is it not yet come? Don't stretch your desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you. Do this with regard to children, to a wife, to public posts, to riches, and you will eventually be a worthy partner of the feasts of the gods. And if you don't even take the things which are set before you, but are able even to reject them, then you will not only be a partner at the feasts of the gods, but also of their empire. For, by doing this, Diogenes, Heraclitus and others like them, deservedly became, and were called, divine." (Epictetus, Enchiridion 15)

Imagine a situation where protocol, manners are everything. Epictetus imagines a dinner party, where we are on our best behavior. When the food is passed, take with moderation. If it goes by, don't chase it. Wait your turn.
Do this …

Enchiridion 14: Work What Is In Your Power

Image
"If you wish your children and your wife and your friends to live forever, you are foolish for you wish things to be in your power which are not so; and what belongs to others to be your own. So likewise, if you wish your servant to be without fault, you are foolish for you wish vice not to be vice, but something else. But if you wish not to be disappointed in your desires, that is in your own power. Exercise therefore, what is in your power. A man's master is he who is able to confer or remove whatever that man seeks or shuns. Whoever then would be free, let him wish nothing, let him decline nothing, which depends on others; else he must necessarily be a slave." (Epictetus, Enchiridion 14)

I gotta Fortune Cookie written by a Chinese Stoic the other day. How fortunate! It's a goofy pic, so don't read into it too much.

My Fortune Cookie (a little Stoic humor tucked away in there) reminds us that that we only control what is in our power, so we are able to explore …

Enchiridion 13: You Can't Have Both; or, "If you want to improve" (part 2)

"If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things. Don't wish to be thought to know anything; and even if you appear to be somebody important to others, distrust yourself. For, it is difficult to both keep your faculty of choice in a state conformable to nature, and at the same time acquire external things. But while you are careful about the one, you must of necessity neglect the other." (Epictetus, Enchiridion 13)

This is the second iteration of "If you want to improve," so there's more to learn. We can always improve. The principle again involves choice that we have no choice but to make. To understand the principle, you must first know there are two "realms" or two option involved with the application of our choice, which in turn, should help us become a better person (having made the right one).

If you want to make progress in becoming a better person:

1. " . . . be content to be thought …

Enchiridion 12: Peace Of Mind; or, "If you would improve" (part 1)

Image
"If you would improve, lay aside such reasonings as these: 'If I neglect my affairs, I shall not have a maintenance; if I do not punish my servant, he will be good for nothing.' For it were better to die of hunger, exempt from grief and fear, than to live in affluence with perturbation; and it is better that your servant should be bad than you unhappy.

Begin therefore with little things. Is a little oil spilled or a little wine stolen? Say to yourself, 'This is the price paid for peace and tranquillity; and nothing is to be had for nothing.' And when you call your servant, consider that it is possible he may not come at your call; or, if he does, that he may not do what you wish. But it is not at all desirable for him, and very undesirable for you, that it should be in his power to cause you any disturbance."
(Epictetus, Enchiridion 11)


They got it pretty close: peace of mind does not depend on circumstances or other people. So, are you happy? Content? Do you …

Enchiridion 11: Give Up, Let Go

"Never say of anything, 'I have lost it;' but, 'I have restored it.' Has your child died? It is restored. Has your wife died? She is restored. Has your estate been taken away? That likewise is restored. 'But it was a bad man who took it.' What is it to you by whose hands he who gave it has demanded it again? While he permits you to possess it, hold it as something not your own; as do travelers at an inn." (Epictetus, Enchiridion 11)

All you have, including life itself, is on loan. You are a traveler who borrows a bed for a while before going on your way. Every person and every thing you enjoy comes and goes. 
The word translated "restored" (ἀποδίδωμι, "apodidomi" a compound word of: ἀπο (apo)--"from, away from"; and δίδωμι (didomi)-- "give") is also translated as: give away, give up, give out, give back, repay, pay out (such as taxes), render, reward. It also includes the idea of fulfilling a duty. A handful of …

Enchiridion 10: Don't Be Swept Away

"With every accident, ask yourself what abilities you have for making a proper use of it. If you see an attractive person, you will find that self-restraint is the ability you have against your desire. If you are in pain, you will find fortitude. If you hear unpleasant language, you will find patience. And thus habituated, the appearances of things will not hurry you away along with them." (Epictetus, Enchiridion 10)

Make use of every opportunity. Our "knee-jerk" reactions gets us in trouble, acting as animals, instinctively, to the environment. Someone attractive crosses your path and you linger with a longer look. But you don't have to. People are attractive, but that does not mean you must let go the floodgates of desire. There is no personal strength in permitting the chemicals run free.

Someone is mean so you are mean right back, without hesitation. But you don't have to.

Sudden onset pain causes you to jump and shout obscenity. But you don't have …