“Enchiridion” by Epictetus (c.125)

“Enchiridion” by Epictetus (c.125)

  • Things you can control:
    • opinion, aim, desire, aversion
      • all of your own affairs
      • by nature free & unrestricted
    • if you confuse them with things you can’t control, you’ll be sad & disappointed
    • if you focus purely on these, you won’t do anything against your will, won’t be harmed or have enemies
  • Things you can’t control:
    • body, property, reputation, office
      • all not of your own affairs
    • don’t go for these or you’ll only be disappointed if you don’t get them
      • avoid them to be happy
  • Think of unpleasant things
    • say to them: you’re just a semblance & you’re not real
    • Think: Is this within my control? Or not?
      • If in your control, or not, be prepared to walk away
  • Focusing on things you can’t control or can’t get will make you sad & disappointed
    • things you want to avoid but can’t will make you sad
    • things you want but can’t get will make you sad
    • Focus on things you can get & can control & make sure that your desires, opinions & avoidances are properly placed
    • Do so with discretion, gentleness & moderation
  • Remember to notice what category things are in (controllable or not controllable)
    • if a valuable object breaks, remember it’s just a thing
    • if a loved one dies, remember you can bear the pain if you choose to do so
  • When doing anything, remember to maintain your harmony with nature, no matter what happens
  • Disturbances come from views of things, not things
    • The thought of death is worse than death
    • Don’t put views into things & people
  • Don’t become elated by excellence or down by failure
    • Maintaining harmony with nature is most important
  • Be perpetually attentive to what’s most important, especially when around trivial things
  • Sickness or lameness is only a hindrance to the body
    • Don’t let it affect your will because you’ll be hindered twice
  • Whenever confronted by a situation, think:
    • How can I make the most of this?
    • Pain builds strength, annoyance builds patience
  • Don’t whine about losing things
    • You’ve been borrowing it & now it has been returned: people & things
  • Better to die of hunger w/o grief than to be affluent & in constant worry
    • Think: this is the price of peace & tranquility. Everything has its price. Nothing can be had for nothing
  • Don’t worry about looking like a fool to others
    • It’s hard to be in harmony with nature & maintain external appearances
  • Don’t wish to live forever
    • It’s not going to happen & you’ll only be disappointed when it doesn’t happen
    • Don’t make wishes for things you can’t control
  • Don’t yearn for your desires
    • Wait for it to come to you
    • At some point, you’ll be worthy to feast with the gods
    • Don’t always take things as they are laid out for you
      • If you can resist, then you can even command the gods
  • If you see someone grieving, don’t worry
    • Think: what hurts him is the view he allows himself to have of it
    • You may groan along with him but don’t groan on the inside
  • Remember, you’re just an actor in a play
    • The author may cast you as a cripple, a peasant or a king
    • Play your part to the best of your ability
  • Nothing is portended to anyone or anything
  • You’ll be unconquerable if you only fight battles you can win
    • Don’t be bewildered by appearances, honors, etc
    • Don’t wish for high roles – just focus on what you can control
  • Allow terrible things to appear so you’ll be used to them & won’t panic
  • If you are prone philosophy be prepared to be mocked
    • If you are persistent, they’ll come around & admire you
  • Don’t worry about not being believed
    • What’s it to you to get power based on people’s belief?
    • Friends who don’t believe you aren’t much as friends
    • Better to have self-respect & harmony w/ nature than to worry what others thing
  • You can learn about nature through things everyone agrees with
    • Things break & people die
  • Before you do something, think about what you have to do before & after as well as during
    • You may not know how to prepare for success or how to deal with consequences
    • In participating in the Olympics, you have to follow rules, eat right, exercise, practice, etc
      • If you don’t prepare, you could hurt yourself or suffer defeat & swear off the activity
    • Think before you do & you’ll be much more likely to succeed
  • Duties are independent of relations
    • Whether or not your father is good or bad, your duty to him is the same
    • You’ll only be hurt when you consent to be hurt
    • Think of your duties as family member, citizen, neighbor or commander
  • If something’s not in your power, it can’t be good or bad
    • it’s indifferent to you
    • It’s within your power to make the right use of it
  • Piety toward the gods
    • Have the right opinions of them
    • Obey them & yield to them
      • You’ll never find fault with them or think they neglect you
      • If you focus on good/bad events you’ll be disappointed
  • Forge a character you can have in public or alone
    • Be mostly silent & say only what needs to be said
    • Don’t go into discourse too often
      • if you do, don’t focus on vulgar topics: sports, food, drink or people
      • Don’t take oaths if you can help it
    • Only eat & drink what you need
      • same with clothes, home & company you keep
      • nothing for show or luxury
    • Don’t fool around women too much
      • don’t brag about doing so
      • don’t condemn those who do
    • If someone speaks badly of you, think:
      • He was ignorant of the real me
    • Refrain from acclamations, derision & violent emotions
    • In private events, maintain your dignity & gravity
    • If before anyone in power, hope he doesn’t notice you
      • if you can’t avoid it, just deal with it
    • Don’t brag about your adventures
  • If you are excited about anticipated pleasure
    • allow it to wait for your leisure or some delay
    • If it’s not too gratifying, go ahead but don’t get carried away
  • When doing something needed to be done
    • Don’t hide from being seen doing it
    • If people misunderstand think:
      • Why do people censure me for it?
  • When at a feast, don’t pig out
    • You might have a huge appetite but have some courtesy for the host
      • You have to balance hunger & etiquette
  • You try to avoid walking on nails b/c they hurt
    • do the same with your mind
      • take care before acting
  • Women over the age of 14 are flattered by being someone’s “mistress”
    • they are only qualified to give pleasure to men
    • They begin to adorn themselves
    • But they will only truly be honored if they appear beautiful in demeanor & modestly virtuous
  • You look stupid only worrying about the physical
    • Exercise, drinking, eating
    • You look like an animal
    • Apply strength to reason
  • Everything has 2 handles
    • one by which you can carry & one by which you can’t
    • learn which one is which & act accordingly
  • Makes no sense to say:
    • I’m richer than you therefore I’m better than you
    • I’m more eloquent than you therefore I’m better than you
  • Makes more sense to say
    • I’m richer than you therefore I have more stuff than you
    • I’m more eloquent than you there for my style is better than yours
  • If someone does something that seems wrong outwardly, withhold opinion
    • until you know his motives completely
  • Don’t tell people you’re a philosopher or talk to them about your principles
    • Show them by your actions naturally
  • Don’t publicize your virtue
  • A vulgar person looks to the external world for help or confirmation
    • A proficient person looks within
  • To understand nature, follow her
    • make use of instructions
  • Follow principles as laws & ignore the detractors
    • How long will you allow yourself to delay improvement?
    • Will wallow until your death regretting it
  • Don’t lie. Learn why not to lie. & Learn what a good demonstration of why not is.

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