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  • Even though they followed the same philosophy, Marcus Aurelius was an emperor and Epictetus

  • was a slave.

  • The fact that someone from the lowest class became one of the greatest Stoic philosophers,

  • indicates that Stoicism isn't just for the elite: it's for everyone.

  • Part of Stoic philosophy is the ability to keep a calm mind.

  • As a matter of fact, the Stoics believe that humans in a state of flourishing have attained

  • true happiness, which always goes together with inner peace.

  • The works of Epictetus reveal the importance of tranquility, and that we should value this

  • over lesser things like money, reputation, and even the body.

  • He tells us that a calm mind is not achieved by trying to alter and control our surroundings;

  • it's achieved by the way we think.

  • The main work of Epictetus is called Discourses; a collection of lectures that were written

  • down by a pupil named Arrian.

  • This same pupil also compiled the Enchiridion, which means 'handbook' and is quite easy

  • to read and digest.

  • In these sources, we can discover how Epictetus thought about coping with daily worries, stressful

  • events, and hardships, so we can keep a calm mind regardless of what the world throws at us.

  • Let's start with the first one:

  • (1) Act in accordance with nature.

  • When Epictetus was teaching, one of his students told him that he wanted to go home, because

  • he was sick.

  • Epictetus, then, sent him home.

  • But also asked his student whether or not he thinks that with his condition he is able

  • to improve his moral purpose and, thus, him coming to class was the right thing to do.

  • He said:

  • Go back and tend to your affairs at home.

  • For if your governing principle cannot be brought into conformity with nature, no doubt

  • your paltry piece of land can be made to conform with it.

  • End quote.

  • The lesson we take from this is that we should do what the current situation asks from us.

  • Whatever overcomes us is the way of the universe.

  • There's no need to force things, so when we're sick we shouldn't force ourselves

  • to do things we cannot do.

  • In many cases, the best way to treat an illness is by accepting it, and doing what's best

  • for us in that given moment.

  • Sure, Epictetus also stated that illness is a hindrance to the body, but not to our ability

  • to choose.

  • Which doesn't mean that we should force ourselves to perform our duties which might

  • only make it worse; it means that despite the physical hindrance, we still can choose

  • to panic or to make rational choices in a more tranquil fashion.

  • When we look at a pandemic, for example, we see two extremes: on one end, there's panic,

  • on the other end there's this complete nonchalance.

  • In the first case, people are overtaken by fear and emotion, and in the second case,

  • people refuse to see the problem and, perhaps, try to make themselves look tough.

  • But acting in accordance with nature, meaning the nature of the universe as well as our

  • human nature, starts by acknowledging the situation, doing proper research, and taking

  • the necessary measures while keeping a cool head.

  • No matter how we choose to react; it's important to remember that sickness and death are simply

  • part of nature.

  • We all go someday.

  • Which brings us to the next one:

  • (2) Watch your judgments.

  • Anxiety isn't caused by the environment.

  • It's caused by the position we take towards the environment.

  • We all have our frames of reference, and from that frame, we decide what we tolerate and

  • what we don't tolerate.

  • There's nothing wrong with that.

  • Oftentimes, it serves a purpose to discern right from wrong.

  • However, our judgments become a problem if they make us feel entitled to things that

  • we're naturally not entitled to.

  • For example, we can be angry for a lifetime because we feel entitled to the good parents

  • we never had.

  • But Epictetus points out that we're not entitled to a good parent.

  • Just to a parent.

  • And this is true for many things.

  • So, why should we feel distressed by the things that are entirely natural?

  • I quote:

  • Distinguish within your own mind, and be prepared to say, “It's not the accident that distresses

  • this person, because it doesn't distress another person; it is the judgment which he makes

  • about it.”

  • End quote.

  • Again, this is important when we face illness or death.

  • These things are nothing new.

  • They're part of nature, as much as war and violence, and should rather be approached

  • with equanimity than strong aversion.

  • Moreover, when we don't carry strong desires and aversions, we're more capable of dealing

  • with the situation in a rational way, than when we're led by irrational thoughts and

  • emotions.

  • (3) Focus less on things outside of your control.

  • At the beginning of the Enchiridion, we'll find the famous dichotomy of control, which

  • is a cornerstone of Stoic thinking.

  • It emphasizes that some things are up to us, and others are not and that we ought to focus

  • on the former, and have contempt of the latter.

  • As living creatures in this universe, we have to deal with what's around us.

  • We might desire to control the outside world, perhaps by money, a position of power, physical

  • strength, intelligence, or intimidation.

  • But, at the end of the day, these are just instruments that can influence but never control.

  • And even if we do manage to control some things, there's always a billion of other things

  • that slip out of our hands.

  • What we do control according to Epictetus is our own faculty.

  • And that's what we should focus on.

  • What happens around us isn't that important.

  • It's more important what we do with it.

  • Therefore, we can choose to focus our attention on our own thoughts and emotions, rather than

  • constantly worrying about stuff we can't do much about anyway.

  • This doesn't mean that we close ourselves off completely.

  • It means that we develop a healthy indifference towards outside events so that they won't

  • stress us out too much.

  • This is where amor fati, the love of fate, comes in.

  • Because is there a better way to deal with the unavoidable, than to embrace it?

  • Thank you for watching.

Even though they followed the same philosophy, Marcus Aurelius was an emperor and Epictetus

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STOICISM | How Epictetus Keeps Calm

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