Saturday

April 6

TO judge of reasonable and unreasonable, we make use not only of a due estimation of things without us, but of what relates to each person's particular character. Thus, it is reasonable for one man to submit to a dirty disgraceful office, who considers this only, that if he does not submit to it he shall be whipped, and lose his dinner; but if he does, that he has nothing hard or disagreeable to suffer : whereas to another it appears insupportable, not only to submit to such an office himself, but to bear with anyone else who does. If you ask me, then, whether you shall do this dirty office or not, I will tell you, it is a more valuable thing to get a dinner, than not; and a greater disgrace to be whipped than not to be whipped : so that, if you measure yourself by these things, go and do your office.

"Ay, but this is not suitable to my character."

It is you who are to consider that, not I: for it is you who know yourself, what value you set upon yourself, and at what rate you sell yourself: for different people sell themselves at different prices.

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book i. §2. ¶2.

3 comments:

  1. Work is nothing to be ashamed of, especially if it pays the bills and puts food on the table. Self-sufficiency is highly underrated these days in our society.

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  2. Well said. It is more that simply being willing to take the lash, as they say, for your own bread. If you are providing that bread to others as well, it is even more incentive to allow the vicissitudes of the workaday world to wash over you and just get the job done. There is not only virtue in doing good work, but in doing good work that will also benefit others, directly and indirectly, as Marcus has been saying over the last several posts.

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  3. If the work is shameful, like making pornography or taking advantage of the poor and weak then it would be better to forgo the indifferents of money, food, shelter, etc than to stain one's character with spending time on things antithetical to virtue.
    The above reminds me of the bordello museum we have here in the city of Wallace, Idaho. The prostitutes plied their trade until the late 1970's and donated generously to the local schools- they bought the band uniforms, among other things. Even though they tried to bring good out of the bad, the cost to their own virtue is too high, IMO.
    We also depend on exploitive wages in the third world for our Walmart cheap goodies (at least in the US). Is this not also a kind of violation to our character and antithetical to virtue? However, doesn't the cheap goods benefit our poor by allowing them access to inexpensive stuff? Economic and work questions can be difficult.
    But, as noted above, work is, as a general category of activities, nothing to be ashamed of, and indeed allows one to give to others out of the excess of our productivity- a very good thing.

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