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Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness by Epictetus.

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Title: Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness.
Author: Epictetus (translated and interpreted by Sharon Lebell).
Genre: Non-fiction, philosophy, ethics, self-development, how-to's.
Country: Ancient Greece.
Language: Ancient Greek.
Publication Date: Sometime between 65 and 135 AD, book published in 2004.
Summary: Epictetus was born into slavery about 55CE in the eastern outreaches of the Roman Empire. Once freed, he established an influential school of Stoic philosophy, stressing that human beings cannot control life, only their responses to it. By putting into practice the 93 witty and wise instructions so readers learn to meet the challenges of everyday life successfully and to face life's inevitable losses and disappointments with grace.

My rating: 8/10.


♥ Remember, too, that if you think that you have free rein over things that are naturally beyond your control, or if you attempt to adopt the affairs of others as your own, your pursuits will be thwarted and you will become a frustrated, anxious, and fault-finding person.

♥ From now on, practice saying to everything that appears unpleasant: “You are just an appearance and by no means what you appear to be.” And then thoroughly consider the matter according to the principles just discussed, primarily: Does this appearance concern the things that are within my own control or those that are not? If it concerns anything outside your control, train yourself not to worry about it.

♥ Of course, there are times when for practical reasons you must go after one thing or shun another, but do so with grace, finesse, and flexibility.

♥ Circumstances do not rise to meet our expectations. Events happen as they do. People behave as they are. Embrace what you actually get.

♥ When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.

What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.

Stop scaring yourself with impetuous notions, with your reactive impressions of the way things are!

Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor what they seem to be. They are what they are.

♥ Don’t dread death or pain; dread the fear of death or pain.

♥ It is our feelings about things that torment us rather than the things themselves, it follows that blaming others is silly. Therefore, when we suffer setbacks, disturbances, or grief, let us never place the blame on others, but on our own attitudes.

Small-minded people habitually reproach others for their own misfortunes. Average people reproach themselves. Average people reproach themselves. Those who are dedicated to a life of wisdom understand that the impulse to blame something or someone is foolishness, that there is nothing to be gained in blaming, whether it be others or oneself.

...Things simply are what they are. Other people think what they will think; it is of no concern to us. No Shame. No Blame.

♥ Do you have books? Read them. Learn from them. Apply their wisdom. Do you have specialized knowledge? Put it to its full and good use. Do you have tools? Get them out and build or repair things with them. Do you have a good idea? Follow up and follow through on it. Make the most of what you’ve got, what is actually yours.

♥ Nothing can truly be taken from us. There is nothing to lose. Inner peace begins when we stop saying of things, “I have lost it” and instead say, “It has been returned to where it came from.” The important thing is to take great care with what you have while the world lets you have it.

♥ If you are supposed to be a reader, read; if you are supposed to be a writer, write.

♥ Many people who have progressively lowered their personal standards in an attempt to win social acceptance and life’s comforts bitterly resent those of philosophical bent who refuse to compromise their spiritual ideals and who seek to better themselves. Never life your life in reaction to these diminished souls. Be compassionate toward them, and at the same time hold to what you know is good.

♥ Don’t surrender your mind.

If someone were to casually give your body away to any old passerby, you would naturally be furious.

Why then do you feel no shame in giving your precious mind over to any person who might wish to influence you? Think twice before you give up your own mind to someone who may revile you, leaving you confused and upset.

♥ For this is the true road to freedom. Let other behave as they will - that is not within your control anyway, and thus it’s of no concern to you. Understand that nature as a whole is ordered according to reason, but that not everything in nature is reasonable.

When you are faithfully occupied with performing the acts of a wise and decent person, seeking to conform your intentions and acts to the divine will, you do not feel victimized by the words or deeds of others. At worst, those words and deeds will seem amusing or pitiable.

♥ But to seek out the opportunity in situations requires a great deal of courage, for most people around you will persist in interpreting events in the grossest terms: success or failure, good or bad, right or wrong. These simplistic, polarized categories obscure more creative - and useful - interpretations of events that are far more advantageous and interesting!

The wise person knows it is fruitless to project hopes and fears on the future. This only leads to forming melodramatic representations in your mind and wasting time.

♥ Follow through on all your generous impulses. Do not question them, especially if a friend needs you; act on his or her behalf. Do not hesitate!

Don’t sit around speculating about the possible inconvenience, problems, or dangers. As long as you let your reason lead the way, you will be safe.

It is our duty to stand by our friends in their hour of need.

♥ Don’t be afraid of verbal abuse or criticism.

Only the morally weak feel compelled to defend or explain themselves to others. Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. We can’t control the impressions others form about us, and the effort to do so only debases our character.

So, if anyone should tell you that a particular person has spoken critically of you, don’t bother with excuses or defenses. Just smile and reply, “I guess that person doesn’t know about all my other faults. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have mentioned only these.”

♥ Those who are morally untrained spend an inordinate amount of time on their bodies. Carry out your animal functions incidentally.

♥ There is a big difference between saying valuable things and doing valuable things.

Don’t give too much weight to erudition alone. Look to the example of people whose actions are consistent with their professed principles.

♥ True happiness is a verb. It’s the ongoing dynamic performance of worthy deeds. The flourishing life, whose foundation is virtuous intention, is something we continually improvise, and in doing so our souls mature. Our life has usefulness to ourselves and to the people we touch.

We become philosophers to discover what is really true and what is merely the accidental result of flawed reasoning, recklessly acquired erroneous judgements, well-intentions but misguided teachings of parents and teachers, and unexamined acculturation.

To ease our soul’s suffering, we engage in disciplined introspection in which we conduct thought-experiments to strengthen our ability to distinguish between wholesome and lazy, hurtful beliefs and habits.

♥ Stop jabbering like a magpie. Notice what’s actually happening, not just what you think is happening or wish were happening. Look and Listen.

To do anything well you must have the humility to bumble around a bit, to follow your nose, to get lost, to goof. Have the courage to try an undertaking and possibly do it poorly. Unremarkable lives are marked by the fear of not looking capable when trying something new.

♥ Many people declare with all sincerity that they are committed to their own integrity, while engaging in thoughtless or intemperate actions. They proceed willy-nilly, undercutting their otherwise well-intentioned efforts by failing to face themselves and to articulate a coherent personal moral code to which their future actions would conform. Don’t listen to what people say. Watch what they do and evaluate the attendant consequences.

♥ When people do not act as you would wish them to, exercise the muscles of your good nature by shrugging your shoulders and saying to yourself “Oh well.” Then let the incident go.

Forgive others for their misdeeds over and over again. This gesture fosters inner care.

Forgive yourself over and over and over again. Then try to do better next time.

♥ Caretake this moment.

Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed.

Quit the evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble.

It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now. You are not some disinterested bystander. Participate. Exert yourself.

...As concerns the art of living, the material is your own life. No great thing is created suddenly. There must be time.

Give your best and always be kind.
Tags: 100s, 110s, 120s, 130s, 1st century - non-fiction, 3rd-person narrative non-fiction, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, ancient greek - non-fiction, ethics, how to guides, my favourite books, non-fiction, philosophy, self-help
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