Saturday, February 23, 2019

Epictetus Discourses 2.6 - About indifference

Discourses 2.6 feels like a continuation of 2.5, in that he continues to talk about things that should be indifferent to us.

"Life is indifferent, but the use that one makes of it is not" (v. 1, p. 81).

If you recall from 2.5, Epictetus distinguishes between the platform and equipment from what we do on the platform and with the equipment.  One of the best examples I can think of that demonstrates this concept is found in Ender's Game.  If you're not familiar with the book or movie, I'm sure you can find a good summary of them on Wikipedia or YouTube.  Ender Wiggins is sent to battle school.  In the school, the students practice war games.  Virtually everything is done to make it un-fair for Ender.  But he consistently controls the one thing he can: his attitude.  The platform (the battle school, as well as the practice battle ground) are indifferent to him.  By use of creativity and team work, he is able to use the seemingly un-fair disadvantages thrown at him, to his advantage.  Also, while in battle school, Ender is given a computer tablet with games on it.  Again, the tablet represents a platform that is out of his control.  Through his reasoning and creativity, he is able to learn amazing things about himself via this tablet.

So too, life is a platform.  The events in it, from traffic, accidents, illness, weather events and what other people say or do, are all things out of our control.  How we interact and use the platform to demonstrate our attitude and virtues, is what matters (virtue is the sole good).

"Always remember what is your own and what is not, and you'll never be troubled" says Epictetus (v. 8, p. 81).

We ought to work to get to the point (mentally speaking) where what happens in the universe is exactly what we wish for.  "If I, in fact, knew that illness had been decreed for me at this moment by destiny, I would welcome even that" (v. 10, p. 82).  What an amazing attitude!  Many of us wring our hands and moan about things that happen, which we interpret to be bad.  But what if the universe wanted those things to happen, in order to bring about something greater?  That is an attitude we could embrace if we so chose.  If the event is going to happen either randomly or with intent by the universe, it still is going to happen.  What's left is our choice of attitude about the event.  If we so choose to view it as fated, intended by the Universe or God, then it may change our perspective and attitude.  Alternatively, we could choose an attitude of "this sucks!  The universe is always out to get me; why try?"  But that does not seem so very productive to me, rather, "we suffer our lot with tears and groans" (v. 16, p. 82).

"Can anyone compel you to think anything other than what you want to think?" (v. 21, p. 83).  Really take the time to think about that question and decide your answer and what that means.

"Just remember the distinction that must be drawn between what is yours and what is not yours.  Never lay claim to anything that is not your own.  An orator's platform and a prison are two different places, one high and the other low; but your choice can be kept the same in either place, if you want to keep it so" (v. 24-25, p. 83).

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