Epictetus’ Enchiridion

Short audio meditations on one of the fundamental classics of Stoicism, Epictetus’ Enchiridion, or Manual for the Goof Life.

1.1: Some things are up to us, while others are not. Up to us are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not up to us are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.

1.5: So make a practice at once of saying to every strong impression: ‘An impression is all you are, not the source of the impression.’ Then test and assess it with your criteria, but one primarily: ask, ‘Is this something that is, or is not, up to me?’

3: If you kiss your child or your wife, say to yourself that it is a human being that you’re kissing; and then, if one of them should die, you won’t be upset.

4: When you’re about to embark on any action, remind yourself what kind of action it is. If you’re going out to take a bath, set before your mind the things that happen at the baths, that people splash you, that people knock up against you, that people steal from you. And you’ll thus undertake the action in a surer manner if you say to yourself at the outset, ‘I want to take a bath and ensure at the same time that my choice remains in harmony with nature.’

5: It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them.

6: What quality belongs to you? The intelligent use of impressions. If you use impressions as nature prescribes, go ahead and indulge your pride, because then you will be celebrating a quality distinctly your own.

8: Don’t hope that events will turn out the way you want, welcome events in whichever way they happen: this is the path to peace.

10: Provoked by the sight of a handsome man or a beautiful woman, you will discover within you the contrary power of self-restraint. Faced with pain, you will discover the power of endurance. If you are insulted, you will discover patience. In time, you will grow to be confident that there is not a single impression that you will not have the moral means to tolerate.

13: You have to realize, it isn’t easy to keep your will in agreement with nature, as well as externals. Caring about the one inevitably means you are going to shortchange the other.

16: When you see anyone weeping for grief, either that his son has gone abroad or that he has suffered in his affairs, take care not to be overcome by the apparent evil, but discriminate and be ready to say, “What hurts this man is not this occurrence itself — for another man might not be hurt by it — but the view he chooses to take of it.” As far as conversation goes, however, do not disdain to accommodate yourself to him and, if need be, to groan with him. Take heed, however, not to groan inwardly, too.

20: Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. … Take a moment before reacting, and you will find it is easier to maintain control.

23: If I can make money while remaining honest, trustworthy and dignified, show me how and I will do it. But if you expect me to sacrifice my own values, just so you can get your hands on things that aren’t even good – well, you can see yourself how thoughtless and unfair you’re being.

26: When somebody’s wife or child dies, to a man we all routinely say, ‘Well, that’s part of life.’ But if one of our own family is involved, then right away it’s ‘Poor, poor me!’ We would do better to remember how we react when a similar loss afflicts others.

33: When you’re called upon to speak, then speak, but never about banalities like gladiators, horses, sports, food and drink – common-place stuff. Above all don’t gossip about people, praising, blaming or comparing them. Avoid fraternizing with non-philosophers. If you must, though, be careful not to sink to their level; because, you know, if a companion is dirty, his friends cannot help but get a little dirty too, no matter how clean they started out.