Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER X.: IN WHAT MANNER WE OUGHT TO BEAR SICKNESS. - The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of His Discourses, in Four Books, The Enchiridion, and Fragments
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CHAPTER X.: IN WHAT MANNER WE OUGHT TO BEAR SICKNESS. - 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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IN WHAT MANNER WE OUGHT TO BEAR SICKNESS.
WE should have all our principles ready for use on every occasion. At dinner, such as relate to dinner; in the bath, such as relate to the bath; in the bed, such as relate to the bed.
We should retain these verses so as to apply them to our use; not merely to say them by rote, as we do with verses in honor of Apollo.
Again; in a fever, we should have such principles ready as relate to a fever; and not, as soon as we are taken ill, forget all. Provided I do but act like a philosopher, let what will happen. Some way or other depart I must from this frail body, whether a fever comes or not. What is it to be a philosopher? Is it not to be prepared against events? Do you not comprehend that you then say, in effect, “If I am but prepared to bear all events with calmness, let what will happen”; otherwise, you are like an athlete, who, after receiving a blow, should quit the combat. In that case, indeed, you might leave off without a penalty. But what shall we get by leaving off philosophy?
What, then, ought each of us to say upon every difficult occasion? “It was for this that I exercised; it was for this that I trained myself.” God says to you, give me a proof if you have gone through the preparatory combats according to rule; if you have followed a proper diet and proper exercise; if you have obeyed your master; — and, after this, do you faint at the very time of action?
Now is your time for a fever. Bear it well. For thirst; bear it well. For hunger; bear it well. Is it not in your power? Who shall restrain you? A physician may restrain you from drinking; but he cannot restrain you from bearing your thirst well. He may restrain you from eating; but he cannot restrain you from bearing hunger well. “But I cannot follow my studies.” And for what end do you follow them, slave? Is it not that you may be prosperous? That you may be constant? that you may think and act conformably to Nature? What restrains you, but that, in a fever, you may keep your Reason in harmony with Nature? Here is the test of the matter. Here is the trial of the philosopher; for a fever is a part of life, as is a walk, a voyage, or a journey. Do you read when you are walking? No; nor in a fever. But when you walk well, you attend to what belongs to a walker; so, if you bear a fever well, you have everything belonging to one in a fever. What is it to bear a fever well? Not to blame either God or man; not to be afflicted at what happens; to await death in a right and becoming manner; and to do what is to be done. When the physician enters, not to dread what he may say; nor, if he should tell you that you are doing well, to be too much rejoiced; for what good has he told you? When you were in health, what good did it do you? Not to be dejected when he tells you that you are very ill; for what is it to be very ill? To be near the separation of soul and body. What harm is there in this, then? If you are not near it now, will you not be near it hereafter? What, will the world be quite overturned when you die? Why, then, do you flatter your physician? Why do you say, “If you please, sir, I shall do well”? Why do you furnish an occasion to his pride? Why do not you treat a physician, with regard to an insignificant body, — which is not yours, but by nature mortal, — as you do a shoemaker about your foot, or a carpenter about a house? It is the season for these things, to one in a fever. If he fulfils these, he has what belongs to him. For it is not the business of a philosopher to take care of these mere externals, of his wine, his oil, or his body; but of his Reason. And how with regard to externals? Not to behave inconsiderately about them.
What occasion is there, then, for fear? What occasion for anger, for desire, about things that belong to others, or are of no value? For two rules we should always have ready, — that there is nothing good or evil save in the Will; and that we are not to lead events, but to follow them. “My brother ought not to have treated me so.” Very true; but he must see to that. However he treats me, I am to act rightly with regard to him; for the one is my own concern, the other is not; the one cannot be restrained, the other may.
[* ]Pythagoras, Golden Verses, 40-44. This is Rowe’s translation, as quoted by Mrs. Carter, but not precisely as given in Dacier’s Pythagoras (London, 1707), p. 165. — H.