I have a backlog of really good Epictetus quotes from Thus Spoke Epictetus that I wanted to share.
“It is difficult to unite and combine these qualities–the diligence of a man who devotes himself to material things, and the constancy of one who disregards them–yet not impossible. Otherwise it would be impossible to be happy.” -Epictetus,
Discourses 2.5.9 [Matheson Trans.]
An almost Taoist embrace of the opposites. Stewardship of what one has without clinging to that which might be taken away. But if you get it right, you can be truly happy.
“Is my neighbor a bad one? To himself, but not to me. He exercises my good temper, my moderation. Is my father bad? To himself, but not to me. ‘This is the rod of Hermes. Touch with it whatever you please, and it will become gold.’ I say not so; but bring whatever you please, and I will turn it into good. Bring sickness, death, want, reproach, or capital trial. All these, by the rod of Hermes, shall turn to advantage.” -Epictetus,
Discourses 3.20.11-12 [Carter Trans.]
Whenever we are faced with people who are behaving badly, like the asshole in the SUV this morning who decided that a snow day was a good time to make a left turn in front of me from the right lane, it gives us an opportunity to grow and develop our own virtues.
This saying also provides me with a great neoclassicist pickup line. “Hey baby, wanna touch my rod of Hermes? It’ll turn to your advantage.”
“It is impossible for happiness and yearning for what is not present to be united.” -Epictetus, Discourses 3.24.17 [Oldfather Trans.]
Desire. Happiness. Choose one.
“What faculty is it that uses all the rest? Choice. What is it that attends to everything? Choice. What is it that destroys the whole man, sometimes by hunger, sometimes by a noose, sometimes by hurling him over a cliff? Choice. Is there, then, anything stronger than this in men? No. For how can things that are subject to hindrance be stronger than that which is not?” -Epictetus, Discourses 2.23.17,18 [Oldfather Trans.]
No matter how bad things are, you always have control over your own choices. Nobody else can control your choices, though they can kill you, fire you, take away your possessions, and destroy everything external.
That’s enough for today. Do let me know if these quotes help you at all and whether or not my exposition is worthwhile. Epictetus is pretty concise, making it hard to expand on his ideas.
…on to the day’s duties…