Wednesday

January 14

AND it is impracticable, as well as tedious, to undertake the very thing that Jupiter himself could not do: to convince all mankind what things are really good and evil. Is this granted you? The only thing granted you is to convince yourself, and you have not yet done that; and do you, notwithstanding, undertake to convince others? Why, who hath lived so long with you as you have with yourself? Who is so likely to have faith in you, in order to be convinced by you, as you in yourself? Who is a better wisher, or a nearer friend to you, than you to yourself? How is it, then, that you have not yet convinced yourself? Should not you now turn these things every way in your thoughts ? What you were studying was this: to learn to be exempt from grief, perturbation, and meanness, and to be free. Have not you heard, then, that the only way that leads to this is to give up what doth not depend on choice: to withdraw from it, and confess that it belongs to others? What kind of thing, then, is another's opinion about you? — "Independent on choice." Is it nothing, then, to you? — "Nothing." While you are still piqued and disturbed about it, then, do you think that you are convinced concerning good and evil?

EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iv. §6. ¶1.

3 comments:

  1. I see this as a longer version of the statement "take the log out of your own eye before picking at a stick in another's". We should strive to change our world by changing ourselves. Until we have perfected ourselves we cannot presume to judge another.

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  2. There is a danger, though, in waiting until one has perfected oneself before sharing the principles of Stoicism. Better to say, 'Look, here is a path! I have gone a short way on it, and it seems interesting. Come with to explore it, and together we will see where it leads.' This is very different from trying to convince, but it is also not a withdrawal. We are not either teachers or students, sometimes we are partners in discovery.

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  3. I think Stoicism is not particularly evangelical, but rather more a self medical education. We can share with each other, but the tasks are requiring of much individual work. Unlike some religions which have a clear milepost of in or out status (baptism, declaring Mohammed is the prophet, reciting the four spiritual laws) Stoicism has no clear entry rite identifying the sheep from the goats. I think though, by changing ourselves we do change the world, and are an advertisement for the benefits of a stoic life. Like Francis of Assissi said, "Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words."

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