Let's Read Epictetus: Enchiridion #11

Epictetus encourages us to practice a perspective shift in chapter 11. Instead of saying that we have lost something or that something was taken we are to say that we have returned it. Even if things are stolen we should say that they have been returned, because it doesn't matter how the 'original giver' chooses to take things back. We are to look after the things given to us 'the way a traveler regards a hotel', to be enjoyed only for a time. 

This teaching is based on the stoic belief in providence. For the stoics all things were ordered by Zeus. We are then given by Zeus (or God) things in our lives for a time after which these things are taken away. This includes everything from food to fame to family. These things are outside of our control and we must avoid the mistake of trying to hold on to these things. 

Passages like these are rooted in a belief that many people today might not share. I for one don't believe in an all powerful God who is ordering all things. But the fact remains that I cannot control or hold on to things that are external to me, and I need to watch my perspective on things. I don't own anything except my actions, my intentions. When I attach myself to material possessions or even family and friends I am bound to suffer, for I cannot control anything outside of my intentions. 

This adds a dimension to our ongoing practice. We should not only remember that we have the resources to deal with temptation (#10), but also remember that we cannot not truly lose anything.