The Enchiridion Part Twenty-Four

Which would you rather have, a sum of money, or a friend of honor and fidelity?

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-Four…

BODY

Let not such considerations as these distress you. “I will live in dishonor, and be nobody anywhere.” For, if dishonor is an evil, you can no more be involved in any evil by the means of another, than be engaged in anything base. Is it any business of yours, then, to get power, or to be admitted to an entertainment? By no means. How, then, after all, is this a dishonor? And how is it true that you will be nobody anywhere, when you ought to be somebody in those things only which are in your own power, in which you may be of the greatest consequence? “But my friends will be unassisted.” What do you mean by unassisted? They will not have money from you, nor will you make them Roman citizens. Who told you, then, that these are among the things in our own power, and not the affair of others? And who can give to another the things which he has not himself? “Well, but get these things, then, that we too may have a share.” If I can get these things with the preservation of my own honor and fidelity and self-respect, show me the way and I will get them; but if you require me to lose my own proper good so that you may gain what is not good, consider how unreasonable and foolish you are. Besides, which would you rather have, a sum of money, or a friend of honor and fidelity?

Rather assist me, then, to gain character and do not require me to do those things by which I may lose it. You may say my country depends on me, and will be unassisted. Here again, what assistance is this you mean? That it will not have porticoes nor baths of your providing. And what signifies that? Why, neither does a smith provide it with shoes, or a shoemaker with arms. It is enough if everyone fully performs his own proper business. And were you to supply it with another citizen of honor and fidelity, would you not then be of use to it? Yes. Therefore neither are you yourself useless to it. “What place, then,” say you, “will I hold in the state?” Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your honor and fidelity. But if, by desiring to be useful to the state you lose these, of what use can you be to your country when you are become faithless and void of shame.

COMMENTARY
In “The Discourses,” Epictetus has this to say about what we must take up before we may give it away.

You ought to have gained something in addition from reason and, then, to have protected this with security. You have never seen the building of a battlement all round that was not encircled with a wall. No doorkeeper is placed without a door to watch. But you practice in order to be able to prove – what? You practice that you may not be tossed as on the sea through sophisms, and tossed about from what? Show me first what you hold, what you measure, or what you weigh; and show me the scales.

How long will you go on measuring the dust? You ought to demonstrate those things which make men happy, which make things go on for them in the way as they wish, and demonstrate why we ought to blame no man, accuse no man, and acquiesce in the administration of the universe. Show me these. “See, I show them: I will resolve syllogisms for you.” This is the measure, slave; but it is not the thing measured.

Therefore you are now paying the penalty for what you neglected: philosophy. You tremble, you lie awake, you advise all persons, and if your deliberations are not likely to please all, you think that you have deliberated ill.

Then you fear hunger, as you suppose: but it is not hunger that you fear, but you are afraid that you will not have a cook, that you will not have another to purchase provisions for the table, a third to take off your shoes, a fourth to dress you, others to rub you, and to follow you, in order that in the bath, when you have taken off your clothes and stretched yourself out like those who are crucified you may be rubbed on this side and on that, and then the masseur may say, “Change his position, present the side, take hold of his head, show the shoulder.” Then when you have left the bath and gone home, you may call out, “Does no one bring something to eat?” And then, “Take away the tables, sponge them.” You are afraid of this, that you may not be able to lead the life of a sick man.

But learn the life of those who are in health, how slaves live, how laborers, how those live who are genuine philosophers; how Socrates lived, who had a wife and children; how Diogenes lived, and how Cleanthes, who attended to the school and drew water. If you choose to have these things, you will have them everywhere, and you will live in full confidence. Confiding in what? In that alone in which a man can be confident, in that which is secure, in that which is not subject to hindrance, in that which cannot be taken away, that is, in your own will.

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

Let not such considerations as these distress you. “I will live in dishonor, and be nobody anywhere.” For, if dishonor is an evil, you can no more be involved in any evil by the means of another, than be engaged in anything base. Is it any business of yours, then, to get power, or to be admitted to an entertainment? By no means. How, then, after all, is this a dishonor? And how is it true that you will be nobody anywhere, when you ought to be somebody in those things only which are in your own power, in which you may be of the greatest consequence? “But my friends will be unassisted.” What do you mean by unassisted? They will not have money from you, nor will you make them Roman citizens. Who told you, then, that these are among the things in our own power, and not the affair of others? And who can give to another the things which he has not himself? “Well, but get these things, then, that we too may have a share.” If I can get these things with the preservation of my own honor and fidelity and self-respect, show me the way and I will get them; but if you require me to lose my own proper good so that you may gain what is not good, consider how unreasonable and foolish you are. Besides, which would you rather have, a sum of money, or a friend of honor and fidelity?

Rather assist me, then, to gain character and do not require me to do those things by which I may lose it. You may say my country depends on me, and will be unassisted. Here again, what assistance is this you mean? That it will not have porticoes nor baths of your providing. And what signifies that? Why, neither does a smith provide it with shoes, or a shoemaker with arms. It is enough if everyone fully performs his own proper business. And were you to supply it with another citizen of honor and fidelity, would you not then be of use to it? Yes. Therefore neither are you yourself useless to it. “What place, then,” say you, “will I hold in the state?” Whatever you can hold with the preservation of your honor and fidelity. But if, by desiring to be useful to the state you lose these, of what use can you be to your country when you are become faithless and void of shame.

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 – I Got Shoes You Got Shoesies (Melotone 13405 1935)

Episode 1624