The Enchiridion Part Thirty

Are you naturally entitled to a good father? No, only to a father.

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 Thirty…

BODY

Duties are universally measured by relations. Is a certain man your father? In this are implied that the children should take care of him, submit to him in everything, patiently listen to his reproaches, his correction. “But he is a bad father!” Are you naturally entitled to a good father? No, only to a father. Is a brother unjust? Well, keep your own just relation toward him. Consider not what he does, but what are you to do to keep your own will in a state of harmony with Nature. For another cannot hurt you without your consent. You will be hurt when you think you are hurt. In this manner, therefore, regard your duties with your relations.

COMMENTARY
In The Discourses, Epictetus has this to say about right relations.

I live among men who are so confused, so ignorant of what they say, and think constantly of evils which they have or have not, and why they have them, and how they shall be relieved of them. I think it is worth my trouble to ask myself constantly whether I also am one of them, what imagination I have about myself, how I conduct myself, whether I conduct myself as a prudent man, whether I conduct myself as a temperate man, whether I ever speak as they do, whether I have been taught to be prepared for everything that may happen. Do I have the consciousness which a man who knows nothing ought to have, that I know nothing? Do I go to my teacher as men go to oracles, prepared to obey? Or do I, like a sniveling boy, go to my school to learn history and understand the books which I did not understand before, and, if it should happen so, to explain them also to others? Man, [you] sit during the discussion thinking of nothing else than how your father is disposed toward you, and your brother. “What are they saying about me? do they think that I am improving. Are they saying, ‘he will return with all knowledge’? I wish I could learn everything before I return, but much labour is necessary, and no one sends me anything, and the baths at Nicopolis are dirty. Everything is bad at home, and bad here.”

Then you say “no one gains any profit from this school.” […] Why are you amazed if you carry back from school the very things which you bring into it? For you come not to lay aside or to correct your opinions or to receive other principles in place of them. By no means. You look you keep that which you have.

For where the “I” and the “Mine” are placed, to that place the animal inclines. If in the flesh, there is the ruling power. If in the will, it is there. If it is in externals, it is there. If I am where my will is, then only shall I be a friend such as I ought to be, and son, and father for this will be my interest, to maintain the character of fidelity, of modesty, of patience, of abstinence, of active cooperation, of observing my relations.

Do not name any external thing a friend, nor name them trustworthy or constant, or brave or free. Do not name them even men, if you have any judgment. For externals are not what makes men bite one another, and abuse one another, and occupy deserted places or public places, as if they were mountains, and in the courts of justice display the acts of robbers. Externals are not that which makes men intemperate and adulterers and corrupters, nor that which makes them do whatever else men do against one another through placing themselves and their interests in the things which are not within the power of their will. In truth, men think the good to be where their will is, and where there is a right use of appearances. No longer trouble yourself whether they are father or son, or brothers, or whether you have known them a long time and are companions. Only when you have stopped paying attention to external things may you confidently declare that men are your friends, that they are faithful, that they are just.

For this reason the good is preferred to every intimate relationship. There is no intimate relationship between me and my father, but there is between me and the good. “Are you so hard-hearted?” Yes, for such is my nature; and this is the coin which God has given me. For this reason, if the good is something different from the beautiful and the just, the father is gone, and brother, and country, and everything. But will I overlook my own good, in order that you may have it, and will I give it up to you? Why? I hear: “Because I am your father.” But you are not my good. “I am your brother.” But you are not my good. If the good determines the will, the very observance of the relations of life is good, and accordingly he who gives up any external things obtains that which is good. Your father may take away your property, but he does not injure you. Your brother may have the greater part of the estate in land; let him have as much as he chooses. Will he then have a greater share of modesty, of fidelity, of brotherly affection? No. No one will eject you from this possession. Not even Zeus, for He has chosen to do so. He has put the good in my own power, and He has given it to me just as He possessed it Himself, free from hindrance, compulsion, and impediment.

CHORUS
Here again is Part Thirty of The Enchiridion

Duties are universally measured by relations. Is a certain man your father? In this are implied that the children should take care of him, submit to him in everything, patiently listen to his reproaches, his correction. “But he is a bad father!” Are you naturally entitled to a good father? No, only to a father. Is a brother unjust? Well, keep your own just relation toward him. Consider not what he does, but what are you to do to keep your own will in a state of harmony with Nature. For another cannot hurt you without your consent. You will be hurt when you think you are hurt. In this manner, therefore, regard your duties with your relations.

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 – It’s an Old Southern Custom (Rex ‎8574 1935)
Cliff Edwards – I’ll Buy the Ring and Change Your Name to Mine (Pathe 025131 1920)

Episode 1630