Epictetus (55-135 CE) Enchiridion
A manual for living a contented life
Rendered by Charles Scamahorn (1935- ) 2014
We may learn from the random happenings to others and apply their experience to ourselves. For example, when a friend’s child breaks a cup it is easy for us to say, “That is in the nature of cups and of children.” When you realize that situation is true of you too, it is easy for you to say that same thing to yourself when a child breaks your cup. This way of approaching small matters may be used when confronted with big ones also, and when a friend’s wife or child dies we may say to ourselves, “To live is to risk death at every moment, and we all die eventually.” Of course when one’s own wife or child dies, we will immediately feel, “I am sorrowful and suffering.” But soon we should remember ourselves and let our feelings be as when it happened to our friend, in the past.
Sometimes Epictetus’ Stoic methods seem distant, even unfeeling, but if the goal is to maintain our personal tranquility, and contentment with the world, his suggestions are a way of achieving it. We can not prevent the death of our friends, or relatives or children, or other disasters, but we can choose how we respond to those inevitable events. Some people go into a lifelong despondency when such events happen to them, that ruins the remainder of their lives; but that isn’t a pleasant life, and one practiced in the Stoic way of life can cope with all of these difficulties and live in tranquility. Remember, how we want to live is our choice.