Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher who was born as a slave in the first Century AD. He went on to become a pragmatic thinker and philosopher, and was eventually freed from slavery so he could tell people what he thought with a lot of directness free from enigmatic twists common to philosophers of his time.
I like his teachings as he is direct. I believe in the straight line approach as the shortest, fastest, and no nonsense one to get a message across. That is why I am in communications and that is why I love writing. I tell the truth as is, how I believe it and feel it, and I do that with all my heart and soul, in as straight a line as I can muster without being hurtful.
Some of the things that Epictetus said (he actually said them, as he never wrote anything, his sayings were written by others and survived two millennia to our day because of the power of his words no doubt):
“God has entrusted me with myself.”
This to me is one of the deepest sayings that I have ever heard. Simple, direct, true, and extremely inspiring. In time of adversity, in time of trouble, in times when decisions have to be made affecting one’s life, what more important consideration do we have than ourselves? That one soul, that precious keepsake entrusted to us by our maker, which makes our perspective sharper and our priorities clearer when we weigh what needs to be done, especially in trying times. We would do well to act selfless, altruistic, self-effacing at times, and these are great qualities which should however not blind us to the fact that it is us we owe the most to. While it feels noble to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, no one really ever asks that of us, and nor should we accept to be demanded to put ourselves and our aspirations behind those of others. That is not how life should work. If we don’t have respect for our precious existence, and value our soul and our own well being, we would not be able to help others who need us, and we would not be the shining example for our children and loved ones, teaching them the value of human life, starting with ourselves. This is part of the reason that I don’t understand people who commit suicide, from the hopeless lovers, kamikazes who oddly wore helmets, to suicide bombers in our modern day. How futile it is to expend themselves for what they convince themselves is a higher more noble cause, whereby their chief cause should have always been their own precious, unique, special lives.
“If you wish to be a writer, write.”
Another wonderful and direct quote by our friend the Greek philosopher. What more direct saying can you have if, like me, you have that undying nagging itch to write. Why exactly do I want to write? I have asked myself that too many times. The answer is always the same surprising one. “Because I have to”. There is no logical, well-thought-out answer to why writers want to write. And here I am not assuming or pretending to be a writer. It is true, I write, but being a writer is much much more than writing a blog, or a story published by a group of writers here and there. Being a writer is putting your everything in writing. Waking up in the morning to write, sleeping while writing the last few lines of a nagging idea that is stuck in your mind. Being a writer is going around with a physical and mental notebook and pen, recording experiences, conversations, impressions, thoughts, life. I do hope that I will be able to overcome all the things that are in the way to be able to reach that stage of just being a writer full time with everything that I got, but come what may, no one will be able blame me for not trying. I have that as a goal, and I am on my way come hell or high water. I could very easily fail, but I will not fail to try. ” If you wish to be a writer, write.”
“Letting go doesn’t mean giving up, but rather accepting that there are things that cannot be.”
Another piece of wisdom from our Greek sage. I have been engaging in a number of conversations with friends. People from different backgrounds who share the same feelings of exasperation when things don’t go their way, when life does not conform to their wishes. What they do, and at least one of them is doing that now, is keep digging themselves deeper in the hole they found themselves in. I see it these days with rare lucidity, as I am the one usually in that state when faced with an intractable problem, and I can identify with the situation so well. I’ve been there too many times to care to count. We, in our desperate drive to right a wrong done to us, keep at repeating the same mistake, going through the same moves, usually with the same effect. We don’t take the time to just STOP. We as humans, so driven by emotions, feelings, hopes, dreams, seeing the glass half full, pin the wrong hopes on the wrong people. We could be right at times, but that is usually a fluke. What I found to be true, and here I am talking despite being an Aries who is not the most rational of people, is that you have to stop. Take stock of where you are, what you are doing, clear your head, take a walk, meditate, pray, play with kids in a playground, go practice a favorite sport, knit, cook, but extract yourself from that situation that is so driving you to desperation. Who said it was easy? It will not be easy, but you have to do it anyway. Like John Wayne once said:”Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway”. And as Epictetus said, letting go, if after reflection you find that letting go is the only salvation of that soul of yours we covered in the first quote, then this is what you have to do, and it won’t mean giving up, it will mean going forward and opening yourself up to new possibilities, to life, to love, to whatever your precious soul would need to be content and lead you to discover happiness.
There, enough philosophy for one day. I am quite fond of Epictetus, I might come back to his sayings and philosophy in later blogs, so you better learn to like him as well 🙂
How’s your weekend going so far? Mine is good as I am nurturing my soul with valuable human interactions, good art (going to see Avatar 3D, and I don’t care if you judge me), and good fun (bubbly pools with my 3 year old this afternoon).
Have a good soul gaze on me, and some red wine if you have the urge.