In honor of New Year’s and its resolutions, and also in honor of flu season, I’d like to share with you an inspirational/ berating extract from the Discourses and Selected Writings of Epictetus, who is truly the Vince Lombardi of Hellenistic philosophy.

From Discourse 16 (”On Providence”)

…You eagerly travel to Olympia to see the work of Phidias, and all of you account it a shame to die never having seen the sight. [24] But when there is no need even to travel, when you are already there because Zeus is present everywhere in his works, don’t you want to look at and try to understand them? [25] Will you never come to a realization of who you are, what you have been born for and the purpose for which the gift of vision was made in our case?

[26] ‘But difficult and disagreeable things happen in life.’ Well, aren’t difficulties found at Olympia? Don’t you get hot? And crowded? Isn’t bathing a problem? Don’t you get soaked through in your seats when it rains? Don’t you finally get sick of the noise, the shouting and the other irritations? [27] I can only suppose that you weigh all those negatives against the worth of the show, and choose, in the end, to be patient and put up with it all. [28] Furthermore, you have inner strengths that enable you to bear up with difficulties of every kind. You have been given fortitude, courage and patience. [29] Why should I worry about what happens if I am armed with the virtue of fortitude? Nothing can trouble or upset me, or even seem annoying. Instead of meeting misfortune with groans and tears, I will call upon the faculty especially provided to deal with it.

[30] ‘But my nose is running!’ What do you have hands for, idiot, if not to wipe it? [31] ‘But how is it right that there be running noses in the first place?’ [32] Instead of thinking up protests, wouldn’t it be easier just to wipe your nose?


Master of the art of happiness


Happy 2012 to my equanimous readers!

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15 Responses to “RESOLUTION”

  1. Paul Kerschen Says:

    Hurrah for this! – also my favorite of the man’s harangues. Equanimious readers who are looking to follow up might find it listed as discourse 1.6. It doubles as a useful phrasebook for anyone planning to visit ancient Greece – while Philhellenes everywhere will recall “gnothi seauton,” to this be added “apomusseis seauton,” wipe your nose.

  2. Elif Says:

    Thanks so much for this – I’ve been plotting a road trip to Hierapolis, ever since I found out it was just a 9-hour drive from Istanbul. Can’t wait to impress the natives with my command of local jargon!

  3. Leee Says:

    I added this blog to my reader for the dick jokes, but I stayed for the Stoic philosophy.

  4. John Gallagher Says:

    Esteemed Author: Once more your brilliant wisdom flashes out like a comet across the sky. In your honor, here in damp, cold Lower Saxony I pause to wipe my nose in your honor.

  5. Elif Says:

    Dear Leee, I’m so happy to learn that, on the Venn diagram of blog readers, there is at least one person in the overlap between penis jokes and Stoic philosophy! Dear John, thank you for your very kind note! – do you think if Napoleon had wiped his nose better, the Battle of Borodino might have turned out differently???

  6. SW Foska Says:

    No, but if he had wiped his arse properly at Waterloo, things would have been very different:

  7. Elif Says:

    SW Foska – I am speechless, as usual. Where was W. Gifford-Jones, M.D., during the composition of War and Peace???

  8. Lawrence Osborne Says:

    Surely one can get to Hierapolis in six hours driving like Epictetus

  9. Elif Says:

    Is that a challenge? If so, you’re on, Osborne. First annual 2012 Epictetus Istanbul-to-Hierapolis Rally? Perhaps in May? Winner drives most stoically?

  10. ray Says:

    Well, I know who Epictetus is, but who the hell is Vince Lombardi ?

  11. Elif Says:

    He is the Musonius Rufus of football.

  12. ray Says:

    I always thought Joachim McSporran was the Musonius Rufus of football…. it seems he must have been demoted.

  13. SW Foska Says:

    “Where was W. Gifford-Jones, M.D., during the composition of War and Peace???”
    Perhaps more importantly, where was he during the composition of Das Kapital???? Marx apparently had to write the last few pages standing up after an eruption of boils on his bottom made sitting too painful, and KM found the usual anaesthetic, arsenic, ‘dulls the mind’. (From F. Wheen, Das Kapital. A Biography, 35).
    The consequences of this for twentieth-century history are incalculable.

  14. Dave Lull Says:

    Happiness is a glass half empty | Oliver Burkeman | Life and style | The Guardian


  15. Dave Lull Says:

    “I wanted to share with you some wisdom from Sharon Lebell’s contemporary interpretation of Epictetus’ The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness.”


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