Roman Calendar

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"With Regard to the Things You Love . . ." (from "Greeks to Geeks")

From Rohan Healey's Greeks to Geeks:Practical Stoicism for the 21st Century:

"With Regard to the Things You Love: Ceramic Cups and Kissing

Epictetus: 'With regard to whatever objects give you delight, are useful, or are deeply loved, remember to tell yourself of what general nature they are, beginning from the most insignificant things. If, for example, you are fond of a specific ceramic cup, remind yourself that it is only ceramic cups in general of which you are fond. Then, if it  breaks, you will not be disturbed. If you kiss your child, or your wife, say that you only kiss things which are human, and thus you will not be disturbed if either of them dies.'

OK, Epictetus, we get it, don't be sad if our wife or child dies, no problem. A little harsh maybe, but let's look at the idea behind this logic and start with something a little easier like those ceramic cups he was talking about.

The point here is that if you place a great deal of attachment onto something which is outside of your control, you are setting yourself up to take one heck of a fall. This is quite a radical idea in this age of materialism, where people pride themselves on their physical possessions, their collections, their cars, houses, gadgets, clothes, and even our relationships. Let's hear that last sentence again; we 'pride OURSELVES on our physical possessions', so if our worth to ourselves and what we project to others is reliant on a physical item, what happens when that item breaks, is stolen, or lost? Depression happens, rage happens, violence can happen.
 . . .

This is an example of retaining logic, and dignity, during a crisis. Once something has happened, you cannot go back and change it, you do though have the power to choose how you will react and behave afterwards. If you follow the Stoic logic to its end, asking, is it within my power? Have I been harmed by this? Did I choose for this to happen? Have I embarrassed myself? If you ask these questions and answer them honestly, you will always keep your dignity in tough situations and you will be free of the excess pain, worry, and rage that is often the first impulse when something like this happens.
 . . .

If we place our own innate, human worth onto an external item, place, or person, we are disempowering ourselves completely, we become a slave to that which we have placed our worth onto."

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