February 22

THIS, again, is folly and insolence to say: "I am impassive and undisturbed. Be it known to you, mortals, that while you are fluctuating and bustling about for things of no value, I alone am free from all perturbation." — Are you then so far from being contented with having no pain yourself, that you must needs make proclamation: "Come hither, all you who have the gout, or the headache, or a fever, or are lame, or blind, and see me free from every distemper." This is vain and shocking, unless you could show, like Aesculapius, by what method of cure they may presently become as free from distempers as yourself, and bring your own health as a proof of it.



February 21

EVERY error in life implies a contradiction: for, since he who errs doth not mean to err, but to be in the right, it is evident that he acts contrary to his meaning. What doth a thief mean ? His own interest. If, then, thieving be against his interest, he acts contrary to his own meaning. Now every rational soul is naturally averse to self-contradiction: but so long as anyone is ignorant that it is a contradiction, nothing restrains him from acting contradictorily: but whenever he discovers it, he must as necessarily renounce and avoid it, as anyone must dissent from a falsehood whenever he perceives it to be a falsehood: but while this doth not appear, he assents to it as to a truth.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §26. ¶1.


February 20

YOU see that Caesar hath procured us a profound peace; there are neither wars nor battles, nor great robberies nor piracies, but we may travel at all hours, and sail from east to west. But can Caesar procure us peace from a fever too? From a shipwreck ? From a fire? From an earthquake? From a thunderstorm? Nay, even from love? He cannot. From grief? From envy? No, not from any one of these. But the doctrine of philosophers promises to procure us peace from these too. And what doth it say? "If you will attend to me, O mortals, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, you shall neither grieve nor be angry, nor be compelled nor restrained ; but you shall live impassive, and free from all." Shall not he who enjoys this peace, proclaimed, not by Cresar (for how should he have it to proclaim?) but by God, through reason, be contented, when he is alone reflecting and considering: "To me there can now no ill happen; there is no thief, no earthquake. All is full of peace, all full of tranquillity; every road, every city, every assembly. My neighbour, my companion, unable to hurt me."

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §13. ¶1.


February 19

HOW do we act in a voyage? What is in my power? To choose the pilot, the sailors, the day, the time of day. Afterwards comes a storm. What have I to care for? My part is performed. The subject belongs to another, to the pilot. But the ship is sinking: what then have I to do? That which alone I can do; I am drowned, without fear, without clamour, or accusing God; but as one who knows that what is born must likewise die. For I am not eternity, but a man; a part of the whole, as an hour is of the day. I must come like an hour, and like an hour must pass away. What signifies it whether by drowning or by a fever? For, in some way or other, pass I must.



February 18

ALL are preserved and improved by operations correspondent to their several faculties; as a carpenter, by building; a grammarian, by grammar; but if he accustom himself to write ungrammatically, his art will necessarily be spoiled and destroyed. Thus modest actions preserve the modest man, and immodest ones destroy him; faithful actions, the faithful man, and the contrary destroy him. On the other hand, contrary actions heighten contrary characters. Thus impudence, an impudent one; knavery, a knavish one; slander, a slanderous one; anger, an angry one; and inequitable dealings, a covetous one.



February 17

HERE is the artificer; here are the materials; what is it we want? Is not the thing capable of being taught? It is. Is it not in our own power, then? The only thing of all others that is so. Neither riches, nor health, nor fame, nor, in short, anything else, is in our power, except the right use of the appearances of things. This alone is, by nature, not subject to restraint, not subject to hindrance. Why, then, do not you finish it? Tell me the cause. It must be by my fault, or yours, or from the nature of the thing. The thing itself is practicable, and the only one in our power. The fault then must be either in me, or in you, or, more truly, in both. Well, then, shall we now, at last, bring this intention along with us? Let us lay aside all that is past. Let us begin. Only believe me, and you will see the consequence.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book ii. §19. ¶4.


February 16

THE materials of action are indifferent; but the use of them is not indifferent.

How, then, shall one preserve intrepidity and tranquillity; and at the same time be careful, and neither rash nor indolent?

By imitating those who play at tables. The dice are indifferent; the pieces are indifferent. How do I know what will fall out? But it is my business to manage carefully and dexterously whatever doth fall out. Thus in life, too, this is the chief business; distinguish and separate things, and say, "Externals are not in my power, choice is. Where shall I seek good and evil? Within; in what is my own." But in what belongs to others, call nothing good, or evil, or profit, or hurt, or anything of that sort.