Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Epictetus and the Stoic View

Epictetus', or perhaps Sharon Lebell's interpretation, the Art of Living was by far my favorite of the three Greek philosophies we have examined in this class. I don't know if it's the way the book is put together, much like a manual for living consciously; or the almost Eastern tone that it conveys that I really like more. This book much reminded me of the Dao de Jing, with it's central themes, of harmonizing yourself with nature and non-attachment. I have agreed with Socrates and his never ceasing to question societal concepts and I have agreed with Epicurus that wisdom is the key to living in the now and the path to feeling oneness with God. However, I grow tried of questioning and redefining, just as I have seen bad things happen to good people who've made all the right choices. Epictecus says that we must accept life's inevitabilities and learn to distinguish between things in and out of our control, if we are to move through this life gracefully and peacefully. Look to nature to show you how to live and behave in the world. Trees, for example, they do not prefer summer over winter but they continue to grow through the cycles of abundance and bleakness. To take from Masaru Emoto, a sapling does not resent the taller trees around it for casting shadows, it simply grows, reaches and branches out toward the sun and finds its own way, after all there is plenty of sunlight.
We must be like these saplings, finding our own niche, our own place in the sun.
We must flow with the Dao or tirelessly fight against it, either way we will be floating along in it's current. The only decision we have is whether or not we will enjoy our ride. We will have much more time to enjoy ourselves if we learn to stop clinging to the debris passing along at the edges.
Nature is a constantly changing but there is a rythmic simplicity to it. There are patterns to be seen and cycles to make note of. When we can attune ourselves to these cycles we will be better prepared to ride the current, without a fear of not being able to control that which is not within our power.


  1. What's interesting to me is that we tend to find similar shoots of philosophy springing up in geographically and historically isolated times and places. Is this because there is something philosophical about the human animal? Do similar philosophies indicate that there are finite ways in which humans can conceive of living well? Or are we as readers just on a relentless (and possibly misguided) quest to create meaning through relating texts to other texts?

  2. It strikes me that your AOL may have an 'eco-friendly' component. This would be one way of finding 'harmony' with nature - Walden may be especially interesting to you, if not already so.