Epictetus, the Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragments/Book 1/Chapter 30


What aid ought we to have ready at hand in difficulties?

When you come into the presence of some prominent man, remember that Another[1] looks from above on what is taking place, and that you must please Him rather than this man. He, then, who is above asks of you, "In your school what did you call exile and imprisonment and bonds and death and disrepute?" "I called them 'things indifferent.'" "What, then, do you call them now? Have they changed at all?" "No." "Have you, then, changed?" "No." "Tell me, then, what things are 'indifferent.'" "Those that are independent of the moral purpose." "Tell me also what follows." "Things independent of the moral purpose are nothing to me." "Tell me also what you thought were 'the good things.'" "A proper moral purpose and a proper use of external impressions." "And what was the 'end'?" "To follow Thee." 5"Do you say all that even now?" "I say the same things even now." Then enter in, full of confidence and mindful of all this, and you shall see what it means to be a young man who has studied what he ought, when he is in the presence of men who have not studied. As for me, by the gods, I fancy that you will feel somewhat like this: "Why do we make such great and elaborate preparations to meet what amounts to nothing? Was this what authority amounted to? Was this what the vestibule, the chamberlains, the armed guards amounted to? Was it for all this that I listened to those long discourses? Why, all this never amounted to anything, but I was preparing for it as though it were something great."


  1. That is, God. Compare note on I. 25, 13.