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gnat (29)

gnat
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Journal of gnat (29)

Monday April 01, 2002
05:22 AM

Epicureans

[ #3895 ]
I've been reading a bit of Epictetus recently, and it's bloody good. There's a lot of God talk that I skim over but there's plenty of other stuff that sticks.

The bit that I'm working on including in my life is "Some things are in our control and others not". In particular, he talks about the futility of trying to change things you can't control (how other people feel or think) and the benefits of confining your desires and actions to those things that you can change (what you do and how you react).

This doesn't mean that if I'm misunderstood I won't explain myself. It just means that it's pointless getting worked up about what goes on inside other peoples' heads.

I've seen many people depressed or angry about what other people think or feel, and it's exasperating. It doesn't matter how much you beat yourself up, rail at the injustice of it all, or call the other person a bastard. All you can control is how you react and what you do.

This is probably tied into my "say what you mean, offer clarification if questioned, but then just shut up" email practice. Sometimes I break my own rules, and normally this results in very long and ultimately futile email exchanges. I can think of very few of these that had any better outcome than if I'd just shut up after message 3.

I was turned onto Epictetus, by the way, by Dan Simmons. "Darwin's Blade" has a lot of the Epicureans, and "A Winter Haunting" has a bit more.

I'm sure there's more to the Epicureans than "pick your fights" but that's where I'm starting.

--Nat

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  • The bit that I'm working on including in my life is "Some things are in our control and others not". In particular, he talks about the futility of trying to change things you can't control (how other people feel or think) and the benefits of confining your desires and actions to those things that you can change (what you do and how you react).

    Are you sure you haven't joined a twelve-step program [aahistory.com]?

    • Yeah, I'm recovering from being constantly offended and in conflict with people around me. For only $14.95 I'll sell YOU the secrets of my happiness!

      --Nat
      (it costs less than $14.95 to print a booklet on how to advertise $14.95 booklets, right?)

  • I've been striving to live by a similar philosophy for some time now: groups things into those I can affect, and those I can't. Work on those I can, and don't be distracted by those I can't. I don't really think of it in the same way the 12-steppers do (mainly because I've had some annoying encounters with 12-steppers in the past). For me, the challenge is in correctly partitioning the problem-space such that I don't pursue issues under the mistaken impression that I can alter them (like fretting over how l

    --

    --rjray

  • But *why* is it important to focus primarily on things you know you can change? Why is it bad to engage in things that are most likely futile? What are the costs, and at what point does the benefit outweigh those costs?

    Or to be more concrete: it seems to me that there are primarily two reasons for your "then just shut up" policy. One, because it is a waste of precious time; two, because it causes you, and the other parties, personal stress. Perhaps there are other factors, but the point is that those f
  • Epictetus was not Epicurean [aug.edu]; he was a Stoic [utm.edu].
    • Thanks. I can never keep up with the Philosophical Football teams :-) "Sparta United! This year they'll make the finals!"

      --Nat