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

Paragraph 39

Every person chooses his shoes to fit his body, because his interface with nature  and his society is defined by his body and is nicely symbolized by his shoes. With this idea in mind, notice that when you speculate beyond your feet and their natural shoes into the shoes of others there will soon be unwanted problems. Think of the unending troubles you will acquire when wearing shoes embroidered with the luxurious gold trimmings of wealth, or the purple trimmings of royalty, or the diamond encrusted ones of the Emperor God. There may be no limits to your dreams of self-adulation, but pause for a moment and consider the endless new troubles you will acquire when putting on another man’s shoes.


This paragraph is another recommendation that to live well is to live within your station in life, as it comes to you. The idea being that you can be tranquil and contented with your life in almost any situation if you relate to it in the Stoic way. Perhaps the most un-tranquil life of all is at the top. Imagine being the Emperor and having every person you meet wanting something, and often it is something you can give them. So if you don’t give whatever it is they want, and everything else they ask for, they hate you and start plotting some revenge against you; and, everyone wants the same things, such as power, prestige, position, and your exalted station. You can’t give the identical things to everyone, and soon everyone is plotting against you. As Archduke Ferdinand said shortly before being assassinated, “Enduring the risk of being assassinated is part of my job.” Ambition is an infinitely slippery slope from where you now are, and where you may choose to live a tranquil life, on to another life where you will be compelled to live with an infinity of unresolvable problems and anxieties. It is your choice.