Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II.: OF TRANQUILLITY. - The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments
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CHAPTER II.: OF TRANQUILLITY. - Epictetus, The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments [100 AD]
The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments. A Translation from the Greek based on that of Elizabeth Carter, by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1865).
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CONSIDER, you who are going to take your trial, what you wish to preserve, and in what to succeed. For if you wish to preserve a will in harmony with nature, you are entirely safe; everything goes well; you have no trouble on your hands. While you wish to preserve that freedom which belongs to you, and are contented with that, for what have you longer to be anxious? For who is the master of things like these? Who can take them away? If you wish to be a man of modesty and fidelity, who shall prevent you? If you wish not to be restrained or compelled, who shall compel you to desires contrary to your principles; to aversions, contrary to your opinion? The judge, perhaps, will pass a sentence against you, which he thinks formidable; but can he likewise make you receive it with shrinking? Since, then, desire and aversion are in your own power, for what have you to be anxious? Let this be your introduction; this your narration; this your proof; this your conclusion; this your victory; and this your applause. Thus said Socrates to one who put him in mind to prepare himself for his trial: “Do you not think that I have been preparing myself for this very thing, my whole life long?” — By what kind of preparation? — “I have attended to my own work.” — What mean you? — “I have done nothing unjust, either in public, or in private life.”
But if you wish to make use of externals too, your body, your estate, your dignity; I advise you immediately to prepare yourself by every possible preparation; and besides, to consider the disposition of your judge, and of your adversary. If it be necessary to embrace his knees, do so; if to weep, weep; if to groan, groan. For when you have once made yourself a slave to externals, be a slave wholly; do not struggle, and be alternately willing and unwilling, but be simply and thoroughly the one or the other; free, or a slave; instructed, or ignorant; a game-cock, or a craven; either bear to be beaten till you die, or give out at once; and do not be soundly beaten first, and then give out at last.
If both alternatives be shameful, learn immediately to distinguish where good and evil lie. They lie where truth likewise lies. Where truth and nature dictate, there exercise caution or courage. Why, do you think that, if Socrates had concerned himself about externals, he would have said, when he appeared at his trial, “Anytus and Melitus may indeed kill, but hurt me they cannot”? Was he so foolish as not to see that this way did not lead to safety, but the contrary? What, then, is the reason, that he not only disregarded, but defied, his judges? Thus my friend Heraclitus, in a trifling suit, about a little estate at Rhodes, after having proved to the judges that his cause was good, when he came to the conclusion of his speech, “I will not entreat you,” said he; “nor be anxious as to what judgment you give; for it is rather you who are to be judged, than I.” And thus he lost his suit. What need was there of this? Be content not to entreat; yet do not proclaim that you will not entreat; unless it be a proper time to provoke the judges designedly, as in the case of Socrates. But if you too are preparing such a speech as his, what do you wait for? Why do you consent to be tried? For if you wish to be hanged, have patience, and the gibbet will come. But if you choose rather to consent, and make your defence as well as you can, all the rest is to be ordered accordingly; with a due regard, however, to the preservation of your own proper character.
For this reason it is absurd to call upon me for specific advice. How should I know what to advise you? Ask me rather to teach you to accommodate yourself to whatever may be the event. The former is just as if an illiterate person should say, “Tell me how to write down some name that is proposed to me”; and I show him how to write the name of Dion; and then another comes, and asks him to write the name, not of Dion, but of Theon; — what will be the consequence? What will he write? Whereas, if you make writing your study, you are ready prepared for whatever word may occur; if not, how can I advise you? For, if the actual case should suggest something else, what will you say, or how will you say, or how will you act? Remember, then, the general rule, and you will need no special suggestions; but if you are absorbed in externals, you must necessarily be tossed up and down, according to the inclination of your master.
Who is your master? He who controls those things which you seek or shun.