The Enchiridion Part Ten

Upon every accident, remember to turn towards yourself and inquire what faculty you have to deal with it.

OPENING
I am A Man of Letters. I’ve been reading lately, and I have found some words I would like to share. Today, The Enchiridion by Epictetus. Part Ten…

BODY

Upon every accident, remember to turn towards yourself and inquire what faculty you have to deal with it. If you encounter a handsome person, you will find continence the faculty needed; if pain, then fortitude; if reviling, then patience. And when thus habituated, the phenomena of existence will not overwhelm you.

COMMENTARY
That is what Epictetus said. Here is what I say.

The Stoics did not worry about equality among men, but said that each man is equal to the task of being himself. If a man will not be swayed by appearances, and not confuse what he is and is not responsible for, he will be free as intended by Nature. Nature intends our wills to be free, and we go against Nature when we chain our will to appearances outside our control. Much in our lives may not be ours to command. But our will, our attitude toward appearances, is ours to command. When you have the advantage, use the opportunity well. Where you do not have the advantage, use your will well. And you will be free.

Do you stand ready to seize your opportunities?

In The Discourses, Epictetus has this to say about opportunities.

Things are brought close to you which are proportionate to the power which you possess, but you turn away this power most particularly at the very time when you ought to maintain it. You should rather thank the gods that they have allowed you to be above these things which they have not placed in your power, and have made you accountable only for those which are in your power. As to your parents, the gods have left you free from responsibility; and so with respect to your brothers, and your body, and possessions, and death and life. For what, then, have they made you responsible? For that which alone is in your power, the proper use of appearances. Why then do you draw on yourself the things for which you are not responsible? It is, indeed, a giving of trouble to yourself.

“But,” you say, “others will get more and be preferred to me.” It is reasonable that those who have labored about anything to have more in that thing in which they have labored. They have labored for power, you have labored about opinions; and they have labored for wealth, you for the proper use of appearances.

When you make any charge against fate, consider, and you will learn that the thing has happened according to reason. “Yes, but the unjust man has the advantage.” In what? “In money.” Yes, for he is superior to you in flattery, in being shameless, and in cunning. It is no wonder. But see if he has the advantage over you in being faithful, in being modest. You will not find it to be so. Wherein you are superior, there you will find that you have the advantage. […] Why are you vexed then, man, when you possess the better thing? Remember always and have in readiness this law of nature, that the superior has an advantage over the inferior in that in which he is superior, and you will never be vexed.

Show me he who has the inferior principles overpower him who is superior in principles. You will never show this, nor come near showing it; for this is the law of Nature that the superior will always overpower the inferior. In what? In that in which he is superior. One body is stronger than another, many are stronger than one, the thief is stronger than he who is not a thief. This is the reason why I lost my lamp, because in cunning the thief was superior to me. But the thief got my lamp at a price. In exchange for a lamp he became a thief, a faithless fellow, and like a wild beast. This seemed to him a good bargain. Be it so. [What] system of philosophy could I have made so that, if a stronger man should have laid hold of my cloak, I should not be dragged off? Or that if ten men should have laid hold of me and cast me into prison, I should not be cast in? Is my philosophy worth nothing then? I have learned to see that everything which happens, if it be independent of my will, is nothing to me. I may ask if you have not gained by this. Why then do you seek advantage in anything else than in what you have an advantage?

It is necessary for a man to have a certain habit of body. For if he appears to be consumptive, thin and pale, his testimony has not then the same weight. For he must not only by showing the qualities of the soul prove to the vulgar that it is in his power independent of the things which they admire to be a good man, but he must also show by his body that his simple and frugal way of living in the open air does not injure even the body. “See,” he says, “I am a proof of this, and my own body also is.”

CHORUS
Here again is Part Ten of The Enchiridion

Upon every accident, remember to turn towards yourself and inquire what faculty you have to deal with it. If you encounter a handsome person, you will find continence the faculty needed; if pain, then fortitude; if reviling, then patience. And when thus habituated, the phenomena of existence will not overwhelm you.

CLOSING
Thank you for listening. For more information about the words I have read and the music to follow, please visit A Man of Letters. amoletters.com.

Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.

MUSIC
Cliff Edwards – Sweet Leilani (1937)
Cliff Edwards – Somebody Loves Me (Decca 1166-A 1936)

Episode 1610