The philosophy that began in a boat
Thousands of years ago there were classes of people. Upper class, middle class, lower class, and slaves. Well, that’s how I like to think about it.
Everyone knew what class they were in and only the daring and brave people would try to change classes or challenge a class above them. Epictetus was one of those people.
This man was a salve, but he was brave and smart. Unlike most slaves who just kept to themselves.
Epictetus was a very smart man but since he was a slave, he never got the chance to show people that he was. But, one-day things changed and he is now a smart philosopher which is why I am writing about him and this very moment.
Since he was a slave he was put on a ship with other slaves. They were all being shipped off to Rome to be auctioned off to the higher-class families. Well cuffed in his chains to the wall it was raining hard and the boat was shaking. A big wooden create slid across the boat and crushed Epictetus's left knee. Nobody treated him or took him out of the chains. All they did was take the create out of the room since they realized it was crushing them.
Epictetus was in and out of consciousness for days after this happened. Whenever he was awake he was in more pain than you could imagine. Most of the soldiers believed he wouldn’t make it all the way to Rome and that the pain was too much to handle.
But like I said, Epictetus wasn’t one of the normal slaves. He was brave, smart and determined to prove them wrong.
All Epictetus really needed to do is control the pain. He had to try and get rid of the feeling of pain. But he realized that he couldn’t eliminate it. So he thought even harder. He tried applying the Stoics Method. Cultivate the power within. But, he had trouble with this as well.
He realized that just because he can’t eliminate it doesn’t mean he can’t control it. He realized that he has full control over his way of thinking about the pain. He still had the power to reason, reflect and decide how to act, even if all his body was doing was hurting him.
Before all he could do was ball his eyes out trying to ignore the pain. But after he took a few hours to think about it he was able to stop crying and just breathe through it.
After the crying stopped he started to try and do things that occupied his mind so he wouldn’t think about his broken leg. He went through verbs in different languages that he knew, he thought about old memories and what the future might hold for him. Even as a slave he still thought about a good future that was very much possible. The idea behind this was to control the pain, not to let the pain control you.
Yes, the pain continued. But, he learned how to manage it and control his reaction to the pain. Which helped him get through it.
This experience helped him become the man that he was always destined to be. Not Epictetus the slave, but Epictetus the philosopher in slavery.
The 3 Stoic principles from Epictetus
- Focus on what you can control
A lot of people get mad about things that they can’t control. They let it dictate their life. I never really understood why people do this but now I have a philosophy to back me up.
Don’t stress your self out over things that you have no control over. It’s pointless. There are only negative effects, so just don’t do it.
Even think about it. Does it make sense to stress over things that you have zero control over? No, it makes zero sense.
2. The only thing you have full control over is your state of mind
Like in the story, Epictetus realized that he can control his state of mind towards the pain he was felling. This is probably the only thing that you can control.
It is super important to make sure that you have control over your mind and your mindset because they are super important and they can control how your whole day goes. If your mindset is “getting stuff done” you are more likely to do that. But if your mindset is “chill” you probably won't get as much done.
3. What is beyond your control is fate. Fate is none of your business.
This one is actually super interesting to me. When I talked about the first Stoic principle I said that you should stop stressing over things you can’t control. Those things are considered fate.
The second part of this Stoic principle says that fate is none of your business. So relating it back to the first principle it says that all the things you can’t control are none of your business anyway so there is another reason not to think about it.
That's it for now! Feel free to check out my other articles and my website for more information:)