joi, 27 iunie 2013

The Manual for Living by Epictetus (55-135)

Chapter 1 a) Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: some things are within our control and some things are not. If we are not able to make this distinction, we will meet with disappointment and frustration, grief and worry. But if we have the right idea about what really belongs to us and what does not, we will experience freedom. b) Be aware that to really understand these ideas, a casual effort is not sufficient. c) From now on, practice saying to everything that appears unpleasant: is this problem within my own control or is it not? If it concerns anything outside your control, teach yourself not to worry about it. Chapter 2 We live our life under the influence of our likes and dislikes. Likes command us to run and get what we want. Our dislikes push us to avoid what we don’t like. If we don’t get what we want, we are frustrated; and when we experience what we don’t want, we are unhappy. But if we direct our aversion only to things that are under our control we will not have to do anything we don’t want. But if we try to get away from inevitabilities such as sickness, death or misfortune, over which we have no control, we will make ourselves and those around us suffer. Chapter 3 There are many things in life that make us happy, give us delight, are useful, or are deeply loved. We need to remember to tell ourselves what is their nature, beginning from the most insignificant things. If, for example, we are fond of a specific cup we can, once in a while, remind ourselves that it is only a cup; then, if it breaks, we will not be so disturbed. When giving our child, husband or wife a kiss, we need to remember we are kissing a mortal, thus, there will be more understanding should anything happen to them. Chapter 4 When you have something that needs to be done, mentally prepare for what the action involves. If you are heading out to bathe, imagine the typical scene at a bathhouse: people splashing, pushing, yelling and steeling your clothes. You will do what you have to do better if you say to yourself from the beginning: ‘I want a bath, but at the same time, I want to keep my will in harmony with nature’. Chapter 5 We are disturbed not by things, but rather by the views we have regarding those things. It's not what happens to us, but how we react to it that matters. Chapter 6 We should not pride ourselves about anything except what really belongs to us. What belongs to us? The intelligent use of impressions. Chapter 7 If I am a sailor onboard a ship that makes port, I may decide to go out to bring some water. Along the way, I may stop to collect some shellfish or some exotic plant. However, my thoughts and continual attention ought to be bent towards the ship, waiting for the captain to call on board; and when he calls, I must be able to drop everything and return. So it is in life. If, instead of shellfish and exotic plants, I have been given possessions, so much the better. But when the captain calls, I must be prepared to leave them behind. Chapter 8 Don't expect that events will turn out the way you want. Understand that they can only happen the way they do, and you will flow with life. Chapter 9 Sickness is a problem for the body, not my problem…unless I decide that it is my problem. Lameness too, is the body’s problem, in particular, a problem for the leg, but not mine. Say this to yourself whatever happens and you will always find that these situations may be a problem to something else, but not to you. Chapter 10 For every challenge we encounter, we are also given the opportunity to turn inward and to call for our own hidden inner resources. Every trial we face can and should introduce us to our own strengths. Chapter 11 Nothing can truly be taken from us because nothing truly belongs to us. Inner peace begins when we stop saying of things: “I have lost it"; but instead we can say, “It has been returned.” – But the person that took it was a thief! What difference is it to you who the giver assigns to take it back? While he gives it to you to possess, take care of it, look after it as something for you to enjoy; but don't view it as your own, just as a traveler sees a hotel. Chapter 12 An important sign of a higher life is inner serenity. In order to acquire this, it is necessary to buy tranquility and peace of mind by choosing a wiser response to whatever happens. Chapter 13 Don’t try to impress others. Just be yourself. Keep your will in agreement with nature. Chapter 14 It is foolish to want your family or friends to be immortal; it calls for powers beyond your possibilities. It is equally naïve to expect everybody to be honest and kind. If it is freedom you wish, then wish nothing and reject nothing that depends on others, or you will remain an unhappy being. Chapter 15 Remember to act always as if you were at a fine dinner party. When the food or drink comes your way, reach out and take some politely. Do they pass by you? Don't try to stop them. And if they have not reached you yet, don’t let your desire run ahead of you, be patient until your turn comes. Adopt a similar attitude with regard to children, wife, wealth and status, and you will eventually be a worthy guest the feasts of the gods. Chapter 16 Whenever you see someone in tears or upset because they are far from a loved one or worried because they have met with some material loss, be careful in allowing the belief that their circumstances are truly bad. Understand that they are not upset because of what has happened, but because of their view about what happened. Although we can show them kindness and validate their feelings we should not indulge in their suffering least we allow ourselves to get lost in their pain. Chapter 17 Remember that you are an actor in a play of such a kind as the author chooses. If He wants the play to be short, it will be short; if long, it will be long. If He chooses you to play a poor, or a cripple, or a king, or a commoner, see that you act it well. For this is your business, to act well the part given to you; but to choose it, belongs to another. Chapter 18 When a raven has croaked inauspiciously, do not be concerned. Rather, make immediately a distinction in your mind and say, ‘None of these things hold any significance for me; they may affect my body, property or reputation, but to me every sign is auspicious if I want it to be, because, whatever happens, I can derive some benefits from it’. Chapter 19 Real happiness is always independent of external conditions. Because of this, there is no place for jealousy or envy and one will not care about their position in society—only about being free. And the way to be free is to understand our independence from possessions. Chapter 20 Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe you are being harmed. If a situation irritates you, you must know that it is your own opinion which has irritated you, and not the situation. Chapter 21 Instead of closing our eyes to the painful events of life, we need to acknowledge their existence and contemplate them often. By facing the realities of old age, disappointment, infirmity, loss and death we free ourselves of illusions and false hopes, avoiding excess. Chapter 22 Give importance only to what you know is essential and superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold on to your truth, no matter what is going on around you. Commit yourself to your higher understanding of life. Chapter 27 Whenever anyone criticizes or wrongs you, remember that they are only doing or saying what they think is right. Evil is not a natural part of the world’s design. Chapter 28 If a stranger starts to handle your possessions, you would certainly not like it. Aren’t you ashamed that you allow your understanding to be confused by anyone who happens to criticize you? Chapter 31 The essence of truth lies first in holding correct opinions and attitudes about the higher orders of existence: that life is not a series of random, meaningless episodes, but an ordered, elegant whole that follows ultimately comprehensible laws. Chapter 32 If you are interested in knowing about your future, know that this can be approach(ed) in ignorance or in wisdom. In the first case the future would be approached with fear, hope, desire and aversion. In the second case it would be approached with the understanding that nothing outside of one’s own influence can be either good or bad; and so at each moment the question would arise: ‘what’s the right thing to do now?’ irrespective of their consequences. Chapter 33 Settle on the type of person you want to be and stick to it, weather alone or in company. a) Appreciate silence. When you are called to speak, then speak, but try to avoid frivolities like gladiators, horses, food and drink. Above all, don’t gossip about people; influence your friends by your example. Regularly ask yourself, ‘how are my thoughts, words and actions affecting my friends, spouse, child, employer, employee, neighbor? b) It is human to imitate the habits of those with whom we interact. We inadvertently adopt their interests, opinions, values, and habits of interpreting events. Spend time with likeminded people. c) Be discriminating about what values, images and ideas you permit into your mind. If you don’t choose them, someone else will. d) Respect your body’s needs. e) Don’t let sex become a pastime. f) If you learn that somebody is speaking ill of you, don’t try to defend yourself against the rumors but answer: “He does not know my other faults, or else he could have mentioned more.” g) Don’t lose yourself in crowd behavior. Keep your dignity. Remain rooted in your understanding. h) In your conversations, don’t talk at length about yourself. However agreeable it may be to you to mention your adventures, it may not be equally agreeable for others to hear about them. Chapter 34 It is useful to distinguish between inferior gratifications and meaningful, lasting rewards. Chapter 35 When you do anything from a clear understanding that it needs to be done, don’t be afraid from being seen doing it, even if the majority of people disapprove. If what you are doing is not right, avoid doing it; but if it is right, why worry how people will judge you? Chapter 36 When you dine in company, remember not only to consider what the food on offer can do for your health, have some consideration for your host’s good health too. Chapter 37 Simply, be aware of your limitations. Be who you are; not what you think you could or should be. Learn about your talents and appreciate them. Chapter 38 Just as when you walk, you are careful not to step on a nail or injure your foot, you should similarly be careful not to hurt your highest faculty: your mind. The superior life depends on understanding. Be constantly aware of the kind of thoughts that appear in your mind, and make sure they stand for the highest truths. Chapter 39 Through vigilance, we can avoid the tendency to excess. There is no end once the natural limit has been exceeded. Chapter 40 From the age of fourteen girls begin to be addressed by men as potential partners. From this they may assume that the world honors them for nothing so much as for their potential as sexual partners. Consequently, they become preoccupied with their appearance and become compelled to put great effort and time into enhancing their outer beauty in order to please others. They need to realize that even though the world may reward them for superficial reasons what really should matter for them is being who they really are. Chapter 41 Take care of your body, but don’ make it your main concern. The main focus of our life should be aligning ourselves with nature. Chapter 42 There is no evil. Only ignorance. Chapter 44 A life of wisdom is a life of reason. We need to learn to think clearly. For example, the following are wrong conclusions: ‘I’m richer than you, therefore superior to you’ or ‘I have finished university, therefore I’m a better person than you’. These statements, on the other hand, are correct: ‘I’m richer than you, therefore my wealth is superior to yours’. ‘I have finished university, therefore I have a title’. But you are neither wealth nor education. Chapter 45 Do not get lost on your personal theories or interpretations about people’s behavior. Until you know their reasons, how do you know why they do what they do? Chapter 46 / 47 Don’t show off your wisdom. Be it. Chapter 48 Signs of progress: 1) The ordinary person does not know of his inner powers and so he depends completely on the external world. On the other hand, the one making progress may get outside help, but he does not expect it and does not depend on it. He embraces it when it comes, but does not look for it. 2) The one making progress does not criticize, blame, point his finger or accuse because he knows that things and people, at any particular moment, cannot be different from what they are. 3) The one making progress knows he is no more or less than anybody else. 4) The one making progress feels no frustration or disappointment because he knows that they are completely dependent on his own beliefs. 5) The one making progress does not need to be praised. 6) The one making progress is not affected when criticized. 7) The one making progress moves through the world with continued attention because he knows his old habits may reappear at any time. 8) The one making progress only desires what belongs to him. 9) The one making progress is content with his life because he knows that what is in his power is only to do his best at any particular moment. 10) The one making progress knows his own unobserved thoughts are his only enemies. His happiness—or unhappiness—is only a thought away. 11) The one making progress knows that nothing can hurt him and that he is free, because everything depends on the way he sees the world. Chapter 49 After reading a book from a great thinker, there is the tendency to start repeating his thoughts, like a parrot. Instead, we should try to live with the understanding of what we have read in our everyday lives. Chapter 50 Stick to your higher understanding, independent of what other people may think or do. Chapter 51 You have been introduced to a higher kind of life. Now is the time to trust yourself and be the best you can be.

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