Wish things to happen as they do
Donald's Commentary on The Handbook of Epictetus #8
Do not seek to have everything that happens happen as you wish, but wish for everything to happen as it actually does happen, and your life will be serene.
This is one of my favourite passages from the Handbook. It’s beautifully concise. That said, it needs to be understood within the context of Stoic philosophy. If we accepted events that befall us rather than wishing they were otherwise, our lives would go more smoothly. The expression Epictetus actually uses for “your life will be serene” here (euroeseis, literally, “you will flow smoothly”) appears to be an allusion to an early Stoic definition of fulfillment (eudaimonia) as a smoothly flowing life.
It should remind us of the famous analogy attributed to Chrysippus. Life is like a dog tied to a cart. If the dog runs along behind the cart, in harmony with it, by keeping up, it will go smoothly. If it tries to pull against the leash, though, or run in a different direction, it will be pulled along anyway by the cart in the same direction, but roughly, and it will suffer. That doesn’t mean that we should never try to change the world but rather that we need to accept reality, and adapt to it, before we can change it.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Stoicism: Philosophy as a Way of Life to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.