Let's Read Epictetus: Enchiridion #18

Epictetus warns us here to not be concerned about things that seem to be bad omens. In fact, instead of telling us that bad omens are silly he tells us to remind ourselves that they can only concern things external to us such as our ‘body, property, family, or reputation’. We must instead remind ourselves that no matter what happens we can find some benefit in it, and therefore all signs or omens are actually good for us.

I love that Epictetus doesn’t try to discredit ‘bad omens’ but instead cuts to the root of why we shouldn’t be bothered by them even if they are true. So what if bad things and times are coming your way? Does it concern you, who you really are? Or does it concern only things that are outside your control? And since we can learn from all things that may or may not happen what is our worry?

Bad omens or not, we all know that we will face with bad times and circumstances in our lives. None of us can escape aging, sickness, and death. Instead of worrying that bad things might come our way we should instead expect that ‘bad’ things are going to happen to us. Since we know this we can make up our minds to learn from everything that happens to us whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’. No matter what happens we will still be able to pursue virtue in all that we do, nothing can keep us from virtue save ourselves.