Living well despite the whims of Fortune

Our very sense of wellbeing is at gunpoint after we hold close to the mercurial, unpredictable outside world.

Around two thousand years ago, Stoic philosopher Epictetus observed that folks are burdened and dragged down because they have an downgrade to worry about too many things. His cure, however, isn’t to prevent caring altogether but to worry about the proper things and stop clinging to anything that doesn’t matter.

What matters and doesn’t matter in line with Epictetus is absolute to the fact of our place as reasonable beings in an ever-changing environment. This reality Epictetus makes clear within the underlying tenet of his work: ‘the dichotomy of control.’

Some things are in our control, others not. If we manage to concern ourselves with the items in our control, we are in an exceedingly position of strength. But if we neglect these items, and specialize in what’s not in our control, we are in an exceeding station of weakness. Especially after we hold what’s not up to us, we set ourselves up for a lifetime of suffering.

But what are those things that we cling to? And why is it more immeasurable to relinquish them?

The two main sources of Epictetus’ philosophy are called Discourses and Enchiridion, which contain his words of wisdom written down by his pupil Arrian. These ancient texts can teach us many things about achieving a state of contentment and inner peace, but also about fortifying our minds against outside circumstances that we’d usually experience as hurtful.

In the first chapter of Discourses, Epictetus secures it clear that outside circumstances can only hurt us if we allow them to, which is that if we take hold of them.

He gives an example of going into exile, saying that being exiled doesn’t prevent him from going with a smile, nor from being cheerful and serene. However, if he had clung to the thought that being exiled may be a great tragedy, or to his possessions and therefore the people he had been separated from, he’d are in agony.

Epictetus knew alright that the likelihood of being exiled isn’t ours to decide on, but being cheerful and serene is. Therefore, he didn’t care about the previous and focused on the latter. If we only concentrate on what we will control and abandoning of everything else, then nothing outside of ourselves can harm us. Now, the question arises: what exactly lies within our control, and what doesn’t?

Here’s what Epictetus stated within the first chapter of the Enchiridion, “Some things are in our control et al. not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever don’t seem to be our own actions.”

So, simply put, the skin world isn’t in our control, but the way we decide to act in and position ourselves towards the skin world is in our control.

Again, Epictetus doesn’t encourage us to not care about anything.

On the contrary: living a decent and moral life in accordance with nature could be a Stoic’s main goal, which lies entirely within our control. But he does encourage us to not hold what’s in our control because these items are fickle, weak, and unreliable. Yes, the enchanting, exciting outside world of pleasures – sweet but insatiable – we commonly deem interesting enough to pursue. So we desire what the planet has got to offer, and hold close to anything that delights the mind and senses. But losing what we hold hurts. Unfortunately, what we gain and lose is up to Fortune. So if we let our happiness depend upon things that aren’t up to us, Fortune controls how we feel. Therefore, it’s paramount that we stop clinging to stuff that we don’t control if we wish to develop a powerful and stable sense of well-being. Luckily, Epictetus provides us with situations and methods to try to to this, emphasizing the facility of our wits, and devaluing the items outside of it.

I’ve structured this stuff differently for the sake of usability and sponsored what Epictetus had to mention beyond the primary chapter of the Enchiridion. Hence, I distilled three categories of things that we better stop clinging to from a Stoic point of view.

1) Stop clinging to things, people, and power.

It seems a part of the attribute not only to become associated to the people we accompany but also to things. We repeatedly mistake attachment, which has certain possessive elements thereto, for love. And so, we deeply enjoy the presence of somebody we’re keen on but are in agony after they walk out of our lives. And what’s even more tragic, is that we regularly suffer the loss of somebody before this loss even takes place, which happens in our imagination.

Clinging to someone or something implies the continual hurt that comes with resisting a possible yet ultimately inevitable separation from what we’re attached to.

In some cases, the fear of loss or abandonment becomes an obsession, meaning that our very lives revolve around preventing separation. the identical goes for power. the traditional Greek philosopher Epicurus discovered that power is insatiable, which is that the reason why obtaining power usually results in a hunger for power. People corrupted by power are the reason for misery countless times because they didn’t want to provide it up and wanted more, which only causes stress. But the irony of power is that although it suggests control, power in itself isn’t in our control, meaning that it may be given and brought at any time.

Fighting the impermanent nature of existence is that the way of the fool. If we would like to measure in accordance with nature, as Stoics do, then we must adjust ourselves to transience.

But how? Epictetus had a straightforward but profound piece of recommendation on a way to treat the planetoid when it involves objects, people, and power. He suggested that we treat life as a ceremonial dinner. “Is anything brought around to you?” (Epictetus stated) “Put out your palm and take your share moderately. Does it move you? Don’t stop it. Does it not yet come? Don’t stretch your desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you. do that with reference to children, to a wife, to public posts, to riches, and you may eventually be a worthy partner of the feasts of the gods.”

So, in keeping with Epictetus, it’s no problem to possess things, and even to enjoy them, as long as we’re ready to giving up on them anytime.

2) Stop clinging to the opinions of others.

Oh, what proportion we care about what others consider us. many folks move heaven and earth just to be liked. Why? Well, that’s the question. Especially during this day and age, simply ‘not being liked’ doesn’t endanger our lives within the majority of cases, as we’re not living within the tribal age anymore when accepted by the tribe was a matter of life and death.

However, people having a positive opinion about us has its benefits. for instance, when we’re likable it’s easier to form friends. When we’re attractive, it’s easier to search out a passionate partner. When we’re seen as smart and capable, companies are more likely to rent us. But Epictetus thinks that every one of these outside factors is inferior to our composure.

He tells us, as an example, that we should not be grieved once we aren’t invited to a celebration, especially if we don’t like the host. Getting invited to a celebration comes at a price, which is praise and attendance. If we’re not willing to speculate time and energy in socializing with a specific person, we shouldn’t be surprised if we do not propose to his party. We can’t have it both ways. By not getting invited we might not experience the fun of that party, but we do have this “the not praising him, whom you don’t prefer to praise; the not bearing along with his behavior at coming in.” Now, that appears like a reasonably good reward. no matter the pleasure that it brings about, the continuing pursuit of being liked is exhausting. Praising people we don’t want to praise, attending social gatherings that we don’t want to attend. And for what? It’s not for the sake of tranquility, which might not be achieved if we always worry about what people think. Furthermore, Epictetus said that we must be laughed at, ridiculed, and despised if that’s the value we obtain “equanimity, freedom, and tranquility”. We must be content to be thought stupid, and when someone speaks ill folks we say: “He doesn’t know my other faults, else he wouldn’t have mentioned only these.” At the top of the day, the opinions of people are beyond our control, but the degree to which they affect us lies within our control.

Do we hold close people’s opinions and let ourselves be guided by them? Or will we take what benefit we are able to from them before we allow them to go forever to rot within the past? It all comes all the way down to skillfully handling the tool we’re given, which is our ability to create opinions about opinions.

Remember, that not he who gives ill language or blow offenses, but the principle which represents these items as insulting. When, therefore, anyone provokes you, be assured that it’s your own opinion which provokes you.

3) Stop clinging to outcomes and concepts.

The universe has subjected us without mercy. try and control it, and that we lose when. attempt to change what’s, and that we fight a battle we can’t win. Yet, people are often occupied with what should happen now, what should have happened within the past, and what should happen within the future. and therefore the more they resist, the more life will hurt.

Epictetus tells us how we should always treat a servant.

Even though a servant is predicted to be obedient, he makes clear that he’s of such importance to us that it should be in his power to not always conform to it idea. People are people, and it’s in their nature to not always behave as we wish. Now, what’s more important: that a servant isn’t bad, or that the master is happy?

We can’t have both.

And the acceptance that a servant doesn’t always act as we please, is that the price we obtain equanimity. we will use this instance as a metaphor for any price.

For example, we can’t expect the planet to be inoffensive.

Silencing people that are (in some people’s eyes) offensive isn’t visiting change that there’ll always be someone offending someone as long as we haven’t given up our humanity. So, the thought of an inoffensive world within which humans are involved is unrealistic. And imposing such a perfect on others probably does more harm than good.

A more useful approach would be to start out with being more kind ourselves, which are some things we’ve got control over. Others may or might not follow our lead, but that’s not up to us.

As Epictetus stated: “Don’t demand that things happen as you want, but wish that they happen as they are doing happen, and you may persist well.”

Epictetus emphasizes that we can’t control the planet, but we will control our attitude towards it.

Someone can insult us, but can’t control what we expect or feel about this. Someone can remove our possessions or steal our money, but can’t control whether or not we’re depressed about it. Our spouses can cozen us, but it’s up to us to what degree this affects us. the approaching and going of the planet aren’t to us.

If we nonetheless hold parsimonious to them, we lose. But if we accept them, and concentrate in living well despite the whims of Fortune, we win.

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