Epictetus (55-135 CE) Enchiridion
A manual for living a contented life
Rendered by Charles Scamahorn (1935- ) 2014
Remember to behave politely in all your life’s encounters as you would at a formal dinner party. When fine things are brought around for the guests quietly put forth your hand to take a modest portion. When the serving plate is coming your way don’t eagerly grasp out toward it, but wait quietly until it comes to you, and if the serving plate passes you by don’t call out to it to come back. Behave in that way toward your children, wife, public office and toward wealth in all its forms, and you will be prepared to live with the gods. When you have prepared yourself to be passed over by the most delightful desserts with equanimity, you are fit to be associated with the gods. Accept your portion in life as it comes along, as did the classic Greek philosophers, Diogenes, Heraclitus and Socrates.
In this paragraph there is the general suggestion of how to relate to the desirable things of life with equanimity. In all of life’s activities choose to behave with discrete control. Epictetus chooses a banquet scene as an example, where people typically are seated and behaving decorously. But then he poses a problem where you are passed over by a delightful thing that most people would feel chagrined or insulted at missing out on. However, the Stoics have trained their habits to be tranquil and never to be upset. Why be bothered with anger when the goal of being at a banquet was to have an enjoyable time, and being annoyed would be counterproductive to your tranquility? This same habitual attitude is recommended for all your encounters, because the grander goal in life, as declared by the Stoics, is to be tranquil within yourself and content with the world outside yourself.