Let's Read Epictetus: Enchiridion #15

Before starting today just a short reminder to be reading along. You can find the Enchiridion online here. I use the translation by Robert Dobbins which you can purchase here.

Epictetus writes in chapter fifteen that we are to always behave as if we were at a dinner party. If and when food or drink comes by we take some, but not too much. We don't pull the tray back if it has passed us, nor do we go to the tray before it has arrived. Epictetus tells us to behave in a similar fashion with children, wife, status, and wealth. If we do so he assures us that we will have a place at the table of the gods. If we take it further and reject what is on offer, then we will share in the power of the gods, and might even be considered divine by future generations. 

This advice helps to highlight the differences between stoic thought and modern life. Today people are encouraged to get out there and take what they can get. Many people spend their lives chasing wealth and status, trying to find the perfect relationship. Epictetus would call them slaves. The advice to behave as at a dinner party is based on focusing only on what we can control, and desiring only what we control. His advice to take these things as they come is based on a recognition that wealth, status, marriage, and children are pleasant things. No harm in having them. But if we make it our lives ambition to pursue these things we are trying to control that which we cannot, and we will be disappointed. 

J