The Enchiridion Part Twenty-Five

You are unjust, then, and unreasonable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing.

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 Twenty-Five…

BODY

Is anyone preferred before you at an entertainment, or in courtesies, or in being called on for advice? If these things are good, you ought to rejoice that he has them; and if they are evil, do not be grieved that you do not have them. And remember that you cannot be permitted to rival others in externals, without using the same means to obtain them. For how can he who will not haunt the door of any man, will not attend him, will not praise him, have an equal share with him who does these things? You are unjust, then, and unreasonable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing. For how much is lettuce sold? A few coins, for instance. If another, then, paying a few coins, takes the lettuce, and you, not paying it, go without it, do not imagine that he has gained any advantage over you. For as he has the lettuce, so you have a few coins which you did not give. So, in the present case, you have not been invited to a person’s entertainment, because you have not paid him the price for which a supper is sold. It is sold for praise; it is sold for personal attendance. Give him then the value, if it is for your advantage. But if you would at the same time not pay the one, and yet receive the other, you are unreasonable and foolish. Have you nothing, then, instead of the supper? Yes, indeed, you have: not to praise him whom you do not like to praise; not to bear the insolence of his lackeys.

COMMENTARY
In “The Discourses,” Epictetus has this to say about the wage of praise.

Why should I listen to you? Do you wish to show me that you put words together cleverly? Put them together, man, and what good will it do you? “You will praise me.” What do you mean by praising? “You will say to me, ‘Admirable, wonderful.'” Well, I say so. […] If it is good to speak well, teach me, and will praise you. “What then? ought a man to listen to such things without pleasure?” I hope not. For my part I do not listen even to a lute-player without pleasure. It does not follow then that I stand and play the lute. […] Does a philosopher invite people to hear him? As the sun himself draws men to him, or as food does, does not the philosopher also draw to him those who will receive benefit? What physician invites a man to be treated by him? Indeed I now hear that the physicians in Rome do invite patients, but when I lived there, the physicians were invited. A philosopher says, “I invite you to come and hear that things are in a bad way for you, and that you are taking care of everything except that of which you ought to take care, and that you are ignorant of the good and the bad and are unfortunate and unhappy.” A fine kind of invitation: and yet if the words of the philosopher do not produce this effect on you, he is dead, and so is the speaker. […] The philosopher’s school, you men, is a surgery: you ought not to go out of it with pleasure, but with pain. For you are not in sound health when you enter. One has dislocated his shoulder, another has an abscess, a third a fistula, and a fourth a headache. I do not sit and utter to you little thoughts and exclamations that you may praise me and go away, one with his shoulder in the same condition in which he entered, another with his head still aching, and a third with his fistula or his abscess just as they were. Young men quit home, and leave their parents and their friends and kinsmen and property, only so that they may say to you, “Wonderful!” when you are uttering your exclamations. Did Socrates do this, or Zeno, or Cleanthes?

When the rhetorician knows that he has written well, that he has committed to memory what he has written, and brings an agreeable voice, why is he still anxious? Because he is not satisfied with having studied. What then does he want? To be praised by the audience? For the purpose, then, of being able to practice declamation, he has been disciplined: but with respect to praise and blame he has not been disciplined. He never learned from any one what praise is, what blame is, what the nature of each is, what kind of praise should be sought, or what kind of blame should be shunned. He never did practice this discipline which follows these words. Why then do you still wonder if, in the matters which a man has learned, there he surpasses others, and in those in which he has not been disciplined, there he is the same with the many. So the lute player knows how to play, sings well, and has a fine dress, and yet he trembles when he enters on the stage. Singing and playing he understands, but he does not not know what a crowd is, nor the shouts of a crowd, nor what ridicule is. Neither does he know what anxiety is, whether it is our work or the work of another, whether it is possible to stop it or not. For this reason, if he has been praised, he leaves the theatre puffed up, but if he has been ridiculed, the swollen bladder has been punctured and subsides.

CHORUS
Here again is Part Twenty-Five of “The Enchiridion” …

Is anyone preferred before you at an entertainment, or in courtesies, or in being called on for advice? If these things are good, you ought to rejoice that he has them; and if they are evil, do not be grieved that you do not have them. And remember that you cannot be permitted to rial others in externals, without using the same means to obtain them. For how can he who will not haunt the door of any man, will not attend him, will not praise him, have an equal share with him who does these things? You are unjust, then, and unreasonable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing. For how much is lettuce sold? A few coins, for instance. If another, then, paying a few coins, takes the lettuce, and you, not paying it, go without them, do not imagine that he has gained any advantage over you. For as he has the lettuce, so you have a few coins which you did not give. So, in the present case, you have not been invited to a person’s entertainment, because you have not paid him the price for which a supper is sold. It is sold for praise; it is sold for personal attendance. Give him then the value, if it is for your advantage. But if you would at the same time not pay the one, and yet receive the other, you are unreasonable and foolish. Have you nothing, then, instead of the supper? Yes, indeed, you have: not to praise him whom you do not like to praise; not to bear the insolence of his lackeys.

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 – Margie and Once in a While (1945)

Episode 1625