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Words of Wisdom

Stoicism as a Way of Life - Selection from Epictetus’ Enchiridion, Part 1 of 2

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Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher, who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. Epictetus, who led a simple lifestyle with very few possessions, taught a practical philosophy to help people lead meaningful lives. He emphasized integrity, personal freedom and self-mastery, through the use of reason and virtue, which is required to live in accordance with nature. We’ll now read a segment of the collected teachings from “The Enchiridion” by Epictetus. According to Epictetus’ beliefs, all external events are beyond our control, and we should accept them with ease, calmness, and humility. Whereas, each individual is responsible for their own actions, which they should govern with determination and self-discipline. “There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs. Now the things within our power are by nature free, unrestricted, unhindered; but those beyond our power are weak, dependent, restricted, alien. Remember, then, that if you attribute freedom to things by nature dependent and take what belongs to others for your own, you will be hindered, you will lament, you will be disturbed, you will find fault both with gods and men.” “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things. Thus death is nothing terrible, else it would have appeared so to Socrates. But the terror consists in our notion of death, that it is terrible. When, therefore, we are hindered or disturbed, or grieved, let us never impute it to others, but to ourselves — that is, to our own views. It is the action of an uninstructed person to reproach others for his own misfortunes; of one entering upon instruction, to reproach himself; and one perfectly instructed, to reproach neither others nor himself.” “Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.”
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