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

Paragraph 36

The philosophically opposed statements “It is day” and “It is night” have meaning in themselves when taken individually, but when they are joined together into “It is day and it is night” they become worthless. Similarly, when going to a friend’s dinner party you may have conflicting interests, but you must resolve them. Stuffing yourself with food at dinner may be useful to your body if you are starving, but it will be destructive to your friendship if you behave that way. Therefore, when you are in a situation consider not only that which is set before your body, but also that which is set before your social relationships, and your future, and demonstrate your appreciation to your host by behaving appropriately, which usually means modestly.

COMMENTS

This is a simple and obvious idea, and yet when you attend a party you will often see people violating the good sense Epictetus suggests. There are always unconscious desires bubbling around within every person, and many of these desires will be conflicting with others and overwhelm a person’s good sense. That often shows up a later in the party after several drinks have been consumed. Our problem as practicing Stoics is to balance our desires, to enhance our personal tranquility, and maintain our contentment with the world. To do this we may position ourselves relative to the vagaries of the world such that we may have all we need to live easily, without undue stress, by balancing our personal needs with the needs of others around us. When we consume too much food, beverage or time we become disliked by those providing those necessities to us.

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