Epictetus’ enchiridion, like our professor said, is a good perspective-shifting reading. If I would summarize this reading in a statement, it goes like this – “Everything that happens follow the laws of nature. Everything that happens is neutral. It’s the views of men that puts meaning to this events.”
The reading started in discussing that there things within our power and things that are beyond our power.
“Within our power are opinion, aim desire, aversion, and in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.”
Attributing freedom on things that are beyond our power would make us hindered, lament, disturbed because we don’t have full control of these things but if we attribute freedom to ourselves, no one will ever stop nor restrict us, we would also do nothing against our will, we will not have enemies and no one will harm us.
“He who fails of the object of his desires is disappointed; and he who incurs the object of his aversion is wretched.”
Objects of desires and aversions are things that are beyond our power. If I, for example, desired to have an expensive phone but I do not have the money to afford it, I would be disappointed. If I always wish to avoid death of a person, but it is an inevitable occurrence in the life of humans, and it does happen, this would cause me to be unhappy. Never desire the things, that are beyond our power, to happen in the way we want it to be. We have no full control of it, and thus, it is always probable that things will go in the way we don’t expect it to be. But the Enchiridion doesn’t demand us to never pursue or avoid anything. “Where it is practically necessary for you to pursue or avoid anything, do even this with discretion, and gentleness, and moderation.“
He continued his discussion giving examples on where the essence of the enchiridion can be applied.
If you have a favorite cup, always remind yourself of its nature and its merest trifles so that when it breaks, you can bear it. If you have a child or wife and if either of them dies, you can bear it.
“Men are disturbed not by the things, but by the views which they take of things. Thus, death is nothing terrible… But terror consists our notion of death, that it’s terrible.” Death of a human being is just what the nature dictates. People die, it is inevitable. If ever a person dear to us dies, don’t impute it to others, but to ourselves. It is our views that causes is unhappiness and grief.
“As in a voyage… if you go on a shore to get water, you may amuse yourself with picking up a shell-fish or a truffle in your way… lest the captain should call, then you must leave all these things, that you may not have to be carried on board the vessel.” In comparison to living, “…such a thing as a wife or child be granted to you, there is no objection; but is the captain calls, run to the ship, leave all these things, and never look back.”
I find this as a good quote – “Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.” My application to this in when taking up exams. Don’t just wish to pass and get a perfect score in the exams without studying anything. Wish that things should happen as they do happen because you know you studied well and you can get a high score in this exam. It is within our power to study to have a high score in the exam but it is beyond our power to demand to pass the exam without studying anything.
If accidents occurs, inquire a faculty to use. If you encounter pain, have fortitude. If reviling, have the patience. It is just the practice of having the right mindset when we encounter distress.
There are three groups of statements that I pulled out directly from the Enchiridion which tackles about the view of death.
First, “If you wish your children and your wife and your friends to live forever, you are foolish, for you wish things to be in you power which are not so;… But if you wish not to be disappointed in your desires… Exercise, therefore, what is in your power.”
Second, “What hurts this man is not this occurrence itself, for another man might not be hurt about it. – but the view he chooses to take it.”
Lastly, “Let death and exile, and all other things which appear terrible, be daily before your eyes, but death briefly, and you will never entertain any abject thought, not too eagerly covet anything.”
For me, death is, truly, a saddening experience. It is the law of nature which dictates when a person will die or not. Having a change of views on occurrences such as this would help us to not fully succumb on the feeling of depression but to withstand and bear these negative feelings.
I also found this as a helpful quote, “Remember that it is not he who gives abuse of blows who affronts; but the view we take of these things as insulting. When therefore anyone provokes you, be assured that it is your own opinion which provokes you.”
“The will of Nature may be learned from things upon which we are all agreed. As when our neighbor’s boy broken a cup, or the like, we are ready at once to say, ‘These casualties that will happen.’ ”
– Everything that happens are neutral but it is the views of the people and the society which give meanings to these events. –