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Look: Calmness is Within

One of the characteristics of Stoicism is the pursuit of evaluating appearances objectively. Many times, the ability to see the interconnectedness of nature results in a kind of mental calm. In Robert Hard's translation of Epictetus' Discourses, Hard creates a sub-heading for 2.2.: On calmness of mind. At the beginning of this section, Epictetus says:


"Consider now, you who are going into court, what you want to preserve and what you want to accomplish. If you want to preserve your choices and keep it in accord with nature, you'll be entirely safe; you'll have no trouble. If you want to safeguard those things that lie within your own power and are free by nature, and remain satisfied with those, what is left for you to worry about? For who holds power over them; who can take them away from you? If you want to be self-respecting and trustworthy, who can prevent you? If you want to be subject to no hindrance or constraint, who can constrain you to desire things that you don't think that one should desire, or to avoid things that you don't think that one should avoid? Well then, the judge may take measures against you that are commonly regarded as being frightening, but unless you accept them as such by seeking to avoid them, how can he do that? Since desire and aversion are within your own power, then, what else do you need to worry about? Let this be your introductory statement, your exposition, your proof, your victory, your peroration, and your source of renown" (2.2: 1-6).


Wow. (I thought I should include the entire paragraph in order to ensure that the last sentence gets the response that is due). Epictetus reminds us that no one can take away one's pursuit of appreciating positive things and avoiding negative things. There is a kind of beauty that results from the realization that if we try to get closer to observing life's circumstances in an objective way, we can experience the peace of an unencumbered mind. Since the development of complex languages (and maybe even since the beginning of primates), people have used language for harm: gossip, slander, corruption, cheating, greed, theft, etc. It is beneficial to know that Stoicism helps us see that there is a period of introspection that results from another's act of injustice, and that we can have a reflective window of time where we can disrupt the impulse to think negatively of our circumstances.


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