Lesson VI: The Enchiridion of Epictetus


Epictetus

Lesson VI: The Enchiridion of Epictetus

Conducting: Steward.  Opening Remarks/Announcements   (Announce that at the end of the meeting we will: (i) sign up new members; (ii) ask for contributions on the website or take up a collection).

Steward:          Explanation of Ethical Overlay.  The purpose of the Ethical Overlay is to provide an overlay to ethical, moral and religious beliefs in areas of identity, family and heritage, to promulgate ethical and moral policy and to help each individual to become a better person and preserve the environment for future generations.  Announcements will be at the end of the meeting.

Congregant:     Opening words of Inspiration

Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher who lived in the 1st-2nd century AD.  Although born a slave, he developed a great passion for philosophy and was permitted to study by his wealthy master.  He was a cripple, known for his powerful speaking and teaching abilities.  His student Arrian compiled his teachings into Discourses and Enchiridion (which mean “handbook”).  Epictetus focused his philosophy on practical application to daily life in ways that still apply to us today.

Quotes:

  • Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.
  • Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things.
  • When we are hindered or disturbed, or grieved, let us never impute it to others, but to ourselves—that is, to our own views.

Steward:  We will now have a Moment of Silence for:  __(decide locally)___.  [about 20 second pause]

J.S. Bach’s partitas for solo violin are some of the most beautiful music produced by western civilization, and continue to be a standard for violinists everywhere.  Almost nothing is known about why he wrote them or who performed them, although Bach himself was a fine violinist.  A movement of one of his violin partitas was sent on the Golden Record of the Voyager into space to represent the best of humanity’s creativity.  This particular movement is from his second partita and is modeled after a dance called a sarabande.

Steward:          We will now have a discussion on the following topic:

Discussion:  Stoicism, Living Modestly:  The Enchiridion of Epictetus

When James Stockdale was shot down in Vietnam, he was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. He spent seven years being tortured and subjected to unimaginable loneliness and terror. He had little choice over the fact that he was shot down, or that he was taken prisoner.

But what he told himself–and what helped him endure this terrible ordeal–was the sense of agency that Stoicism gave him, the sense that he could ultimately use this experience as fuel.

As he said later:

“I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

The sheer bravery and strength Stockdale exhibited by truly embodying this notion of amor fati gives one goosebumps, even some 50 years later. It’s just unreal.

It’s a reminder that for everything outside of our control, we retain–at the core of our being–an incredible power: The power to choose what we do with what happens to us. The power to decide what role an event will play in our lives. The power to write the end of our own story.  (From https://dailystoic.com/you-decide-the-end-of-the-story/)

  1. What can and what can’t we control about our lives?
    1. What are our responsibilities with respect to the things we can and can’t control?
  2. Stoicism teaches that we cannot alter events, but we can control our perspective.
    1. What kinds of daily events require a Stoic perspective?
    2. How do we develop this perspective?
    3. What are the advantages of living life with a Stoic mentality?
      1. Disadvantages?
    4. Perspective fueled Stockdale’s courage and strength.
      1. Discuss experiences when congregants have drawn courage from maintaining a healthy perspective on events.
    5. How can we learn to let go of things that we really want but are out of our control?
      1. How do we teach this to our children?
    6. Epictetus said, “Remember that you must behave as at a banquet. Is anything brought round to you?  Put out your hand and take a moderate share.  Does it pass by you?  Do not stop it.  Is it not yet come?  Do not yearn in desire toward it, but wait till it reaches you.  So with regard to children, wife, office, riches; and you will some time or other be worthy to feast with the gods.”
      1. How does patience contribute to a healthy perspective on life?
      2. Where is the balance between working towards our goals and patiently accepting circumstances we cannot change?

Congregant: Closing words of inspiration.

To start on this path of virtue and perspective, Epictetus advises to “Begin by prescribing to yourself some character and demeanor, such as you may preserve both alone and in company.”  He also said “If you have assumed any character beyond your strength, you have both demeaned yourself ill in that and quitted one which you might have supported.”

Extend an invitation/commitment to apply one thing learned this week.

Steward: Take contributions from group made payable to Ethical Overlay.  [Take cash, checks, or commitments to pay online].

[Adjournment]

Announcements after adjournment

Previous Lesson VII: The Decisive Battle of Marathon
Next Lesson V: The Fables Of The Greek Aesop

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