This is basically a collection of aphorisms. Most of should be used for further thinking. However, there is one section (33) that can be used to help build guidelines for your life.
Most of the philosophy of the book can be summed up into a Buddhist-like call to be detached from people, property, and outcomes.
It’s fairly short, and might be a good book to add to an annual reading list – maybe around the New Year, or if you have a ‘retreat’ vacation.
Whatever things give you pleasure, remember that they are only things.
Here is my summary of the practices recommended in section 33:
- Do not speak much.
- When you do speak, don’t gossip or speak about trifling subjects.
- Avoid obnoxious behavior – loud laughter, swearing, etc.
- Avoid crass entertainment, and the people who enjoy it.
- Focus on substance, and not of ‘flash’.
- Don’t sleep around.
- Don’t waste time defending yourself against people who slander you.
- If you go to a public event, don’t become ‘whipped into a frenzy’ about it.
- When meeting with people, act professionally and have no expectations that events will go as you hope.
- In conversations, don’t be a braggart or a clown.
If you get yourself into a position above your abilities, you can make yourself look bad. Whereas had you stayed in a lower position, you would appear as a very capable person.
Being richer, or smarter, does not make you “better”. It only means that you have more property, or more knowledge.
Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our actions.
Remove aversion, then, from all things that are not in our control…
Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.
An uninstructed person will lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others. Someone just starting instruction will lay the fault on himself. Some (sic) who is perfectly instructed will place blame neither on others or himself.
Don’t demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go well.
With every accident, ask yourself what abilities you have for making a proper use of it.
If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things.
Whoever, then, would be free, let him wish nothing, let him decline nothing, which depends on others else he must necessarily be a slave.
Be for the most part silent, or speak merely what is necessary, and in few words.
Remember that you are an actor in a drama, of such a kind as the author pleases to make it.
You may be unconquerable, if you enter into no combat in which it is not in your control to conquer.
If you ever happen to turn your attention to externals, so as to wish to please anyone, be assured that you have ruined your scheme of life.
The condition and characteristic of a vulgar person, is, that he never expects either benefit or hurt from himself, but from externals.
Actions I took, based on this book
I haven’t made any immediate changes in my life, based on this book. However, there are several practices from the book that I want to use in my search for a root set of life principles.
To get your copy of “The Enchiridion of Epictetus”, click here.