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The Avoidance of Two Failures

I listened to the Stoicism on Fire podcast a few days ago, and Chris Fisher mentioned this passage from Epictetus:


“From everything that comes about in the universe one may easily find cause to praise providence if one possesses these two qualities, the capacity to view each particular event in relation to the whole, and a sense of gratitude. For, otherwise, one will either fail to recognize the usefulness of what has come about, or else fail to be truly grateful if one does in fact recognize it” (Discourses I.6.1-2).


The last sentence of this passage especially made me think about how I think about utility and gratitude. It is important to note that Epictetus mentions two distinct failures if we fail to take the view from above:


1. The failure to recognize the usefulness of what has come about (in relation to the whole)

2. The failure to be truly grateful if one recognizes such usefulness


Practicing Stoics usually find it easy to notice the usefulness of certain events. Many times, the difficulty lies in the second event. Lots of people take for granted the things that happen to us and simply weigh the results of such things. However, the one thing that is missing from our reflection is the feeling of gratitude that results from these observations. Where there is a resulting peace from making a mental list of things we own and things that happen to us, it takes an extra step to feel gratitude for such things. It is important to keep these events separate and implement them into our lives intentionally.


(cover artwork courtesy of Andrea Ucini)

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