The Art of Living

I wanted to share with you some wisdom from Sharon Lebell’s contemporary interpretation of Epictetus’ The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness.

Blame

Those who are dedicated to a life of wisdom understand that the impulse to blame something or someone is foolishness, that there is nothing to be gained in blaming, whether it be others or oneself.

Embrace what you get

Events happen as they do. People behave as they are. Embrace what you actually get. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance. … Remember to discriminate between events themselves and your interpretations of them.

Freedom

We are ultimately controlled by that which bestows what we seek or removes what we don’t want. If it’s freedom you seek, then wish nothing and shun nothing that depends on others, or you will always be a helpless slave. … Most people tend to delude themselves into thinking that freedom comes from doing what feels good or what fosters comfort and ease. The truth is that people who subordinate reason to their feelings of the moment are actually slaves of their desires and aversions.

Thinking

If someone were to casually give your body away to any old passerby, you would naturally be furious. Why then do you feel no shame in giving your precious mind over to any person who might wish to influence you.

Attention

When we blather about trivial things, we ourselves become trivial, for our attention gets taken up with trivialities. You become what you give attention to.

Information

The wise do not confuse information or data, however prodigious or cleverly deployed, with comprehensive knowledge or transcendent wisdom.

Conventional thinking

Popular perceptions, values, and ways of doing things are rarely the wisest. Many pervasive beliefs would not pass appropriate tests of rationality. Conventional thinking — its means and ends — is essentially uncreative and uninteresting. Its job is to preserve the status quo for overly self-defended individuals and institutions.

Discussions

Take care not to casually discuss matters that are of great importance to you with people who are not important to you. … Most people only know how to respond to an idea by pouncing on its shortfalls rather than identifying its potential merits. Practice self-containment so that your enthusiasm won’t be frittered away.