The Discourses - by Epictetus

Why do you not, rather, give thanks to the gods that they have made you superior to everything that they did not place in your power, and have rendered you accountable only for that which is in your own power? They have discharged you from all accountability for your parents, and likewise for your brothers, and for your body, and for property, death, life. For what, then, have they made you accountable? For that which alone is in your power, the proper use of your impressions. Why, then, should you draw upon yourself those things for which you are not accountable? You are merely creating trouble for yourself.

Who are these people, by whom you wish to be admired? Are they not the very people whom you have been in the habit of describing as mad? What, then, do you want to be admired by madmen?

The soul is like a vessel filled with water; and impressions are like a ray of light that falls upon the water. If the water is disturbed, the ray will seem to be disturbed likewise, though in reality it is not.

In the same way as we exericse ourselves to deal with sophistical questioning, we should exercise ourselves daily to deal with impressions; for these too put questions to us. 'So-and-so's son is dead. What do you think of that?' It lies outside the sphere of choice, it is not an evil. - 'So-and-so has been disinherited by his father. What do you think of that?' It lies outside the sphere of choice, it is not an evil. - 'Caesar has condemned him.' This lies outside the sphere of choice, it is not an evil. - He has been distressed by all this. - This is within the sphere of choice, it is an evil. - He has borne it nobly. - This is within the sphere of choice, it is a good.

And if we make this our habit we shall make progress, for we shall never assent to anything unless we get a convincing impression. His son is dead. - What happened? - His son is dead. - Nothingmore? - Nothing. - The ship is lost. - What has happened? - The ship is lost. - He was carried off to prison. - What happened? - He was carried off to prison. The remark 'He has fared ill,' is an addition that each man must make for himself. - 'All the same,' you say, 'Zeus is not acting rightly in all this.' - Why so? Because he has made you patient? Because he has made you noble-minded? Because he has prevented these things from being evils, because he has made it possible for you to suffer and still be happy, because he has left the door open for you whenever they do not suit you? Go out, man, and do not complain.

This is what you should practice from morning till evening, beginning with the meanest and frailest things, with an earthen vessel or a cup. Afterwards, proceed to a tunic, a dog, a horse, a piece of land, and thence to yourself, your body and its parts, and your children, wife, brothers. Look around you in every direction, and hurl these things away from you. Purify your judgements. See that nothing is attached to you or cleaves to you that is not your own and that may give you pain when it is torn away. And say while you are training yourself day after day, as you do here, not that you are pursuing philosophy (to claim that title would surely be pretentious), but that you are providing for your emancipation. For this is true freedom.

Since there is so much difference, then, in men's desires, and actions, and prayers, would you yet have an equal share with other in those things about which you have not taken pains and they have? And do you wonder, after all, and are you annoyed, if they pity you? But they are not annoyed if you pity them. Why? Because they are convinced that they are in possession of their proper good; but you are not convinced that you are. And thus you are not satisfied with what you have, but covet what they have; whereas they are satisfied with what they have and do not covet what you have. For, if you were really convinced that it is you who are in possession of what is good, and that they are mistaken, you would not even have given a thought to what they say about you.