May 24

STUDY these points, these principles, these discourses, contemplate these examples, if you would be free, if you desire the thing in proportion to its value. And where is the wonder that you should purchase so great a thing at the price of others, so many, and so great? Some hang themselves, others break their necks, and sometimes even whole cities have been destroyed, for that which is reputed freedom; and will not you, for the sake of the true and secure and inviolable freedom, repay God what He hath given when He demands it? Will you not study, not only as Plato says, to die, but to be tortured and banished and scourged, and, in short, to give up all that belongs to others? If not, you will be a slave among slaves, though you were ten thousand times a consul; and, even though you should rise to the palace, you will be nevertheless so. And you will feel that though philosophers (as Cleanthes says) do, perhaps, talk contrary to common opinion, yet not contrary to reason. For you will find it true, in fact, that the things that are eagerly followed and admired are of no use to those who have gained them; while they who have not yet gained them imagine that, if they are acquired, every good will come along with them; and then, when they are acquired, there is the same feverishness, the same agitation, the same nauseating, and the same desire of what is absent.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §1, ¶19.


  1. Attachment to anything, even life itself, can be used as a "weapon" to cause discontent. Many of us have thought "if we only had ..." to later find ourselves in possession of that very thing and yet no more content or happier than before.

    We must find contentment and peace with ourselves as that truly is the only "thing" that we can count on. To live to our full potential, fully in sync with nature and the virtues should be our continual life-long goal.

  2. We can not expect to achieve the fulfillment of our truest desire, which is to matter, and to know what matters, without studying it out, understanding, then living the principles. Some do this naturally, but many of us, myself included, have believed that the things which make life matter are 'out there' and it is these that we pursue. What matters in inside each of us, and it is that which tells us what to pursue, what to avoid, what to cling to, and what to reject.

  3. The eternal quest for the greener grass on the other side of the fence makes us fail to see the green grass that is on our own side all around us. To breathe in every moment to savour life's elixir like a fine wine. Every drop is an experience and something to be treasured.

    This is our challenge to continue to grow but without the feverish striving for the other side of the fence. To be grateful for what we have and yet still grow and move forward is the challenge. Balance in all things.

  4. Why do we desire things that are outside of our control? Those who have them are no happier, and in fact desire even more! Look around you, and be grateful for the brief moment of your life. Look within you to your courage, wisdom, temperance and justice. Don't desire to have more, desire to be more. Be yet more courageous, just, temperate and wise. - Lessons from Epictetus

  5. "And you will feel that though philosophers do, perhaps, talk contrary to common opinion, yet not contrary to reason."

    And that's the heart of the matter, after all, isn't it? If we can ever find our way to the heart -the center- then there seems only two ways to proceed. The way of common opinion or the way of reason. What are we to do when we realize that our society at large follows a set of common opinions? What are we to do when we do not agree with those opinions? Do we have a duty to cleave to our own opinions, our own reason, in the event that we disagree with those common opinions? Or, is our duty to conform? Do we wish to live free or as slaves?

    Do we have the courage and self-confidence (contentment and peace) to follow reason wherever it leads or will we abdicate to common opinion?

  6. Scott - aye there's the rub! Do we succumb to common opinion or hold true to our own reason and care not of the winds of fashion dictated by society? Are hard road to travel but a necessary one if one is to find true fulfillment and eudaimonia. :)