Epictetus would no doubt have rejected Baudelaire’s suggestion to always be intoxicated, to never be sober. Baudelaire was trying to avoid being broken down by life, by being “one of the tortured slaves of Time.”
Epictetus, of course, spent his youth as a slave, but that didn’t beat him down or keep him from becoming a Stoic philosopher. A lot of people today agree with these sentiments:
Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not.
We cannot choose our external circumstances, but can always choose how we respond to them.
When something happens the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.
It is only our opinions and principles that can render us unhappy.
Watch for how you can put certain aspects of an event to good use. Is there some less-than-obvious benefit in the event that a trained eye might discern?
Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and invoke our own submerged resources. Try not to merely react in the moment. Pull back from the situation. Take a wider view; compose yourself.
Of course, there are times when for practical reasons you must go after one thing or shun another, but do so with grace, finesse, and flexibility.
Generally speaking, we are all doing the best we can. Forgive yourself over and over again. Try to do better next time. When you know you’ve done the best you can under the circumstances, have a light heart.
Practice having a grateful attitude and you will be happy. If you take a broad view of what befalls each person and appreciate the usefulness of things that happen, give thanks.
Which of these ideas do you agree with, and which do you take issue with?
I must say, I love the expression “grace, finesse, and flexibility.” I think I can usually manage to be flexible, but finesse and grace still need a lot of work.
March 5, 2015