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Epictetus (55-135 CE) Enchiridion
A manual for living a contented life
Rendered by Charles Scamahorn (1935- ) 2014

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Everything of which you are aware, from the tiniest to the grandest,  has some value to you. Sometimes it is useful, sometimes beautiful, sometimes a loved person, but often say to yourself, “What are the qualities of its category?” If you are fond of a glass cup, say to yourself, “I am fond of a glass cup,” stating it as a member of a category. Then you will think of it as a member of a category, and if it is broken, you can say it was a cup and there are other cups, and you can maintain your objective equanimity. The same is true of your wife and children. You may think of them as human beings, and when they die it will not be so difficult to maintain your contentment.

COMMENTS

Epictetus’ assertion here is that if we maintain an abstract distance from things, and think often of them as a member of a category, it is easier to relate to their acquisition or loss without emotional stress. We must realize that ultimately all of these things we value will depart from us; sometimes it will be sooner and sometimes later, but they will all go, and if we are bound tightly to them the loss will be painful. The goal is to maintain a pleasant life of equanimity and contentment, and part of achieving that goal is to accept some things as inevitable. When something that is inevitable, like death, happens to a loved one or to ourselves, we can accept it with a calm demeanor. Why disturb our equanimity with unpleasant emotions that will do no good?

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