Among the many many books that shaped my life, a few remain in a select category. Unfortunately, I discovered them later in life. I wished I had read them before I turned 20.
But, as the saying goes, “better later than never”. These books arrived at many of my multiple life crises. A great example of their teachings: AMOR FATI.
The first one is “The Manual” (εγχειριδιον or Enchiridion in greek) from Epictetus. This is a concise book with 53 chapters, most of them just a few paragraphs long. The book was written by Arrian, a pupil of Epictetus in the 2nd century AD. And it is a summary of the longer Discourses.
One of the most important and central ideas (which is core to stoicism), is the dichotomy of control. The book opens up with just that: Some things are up to us, some are not… The notion that much of what happens to us in our journey through life is entirely outside of our control. And that it is pointless to focus on the things we don’t control. Instead, we should focus on the things we do control. And that is mostly ourselves: our judgments, our perceptions, reactions. It is a surprisingly simple recipe for happiness, and so challenging to implement. Related to this is the notion that nothing can harm us, except ourselves. It is our judgment of events that cause angst, pain and ends up harming us. Control your judgments and you are invincible. Of course, this is easier said than done.
But I became a convert years ago, and since then, I have followed this and other stoic principles. I started the Enchiridion and followed other classic authors: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Montaigne.
The Enchiridion, I liked to so much that I ended up copying it entirely by hand as an exercise. It took me a few months as I transcribed each chapter, but it was fun to resurface my high school calligraphy lessons.
As Epictetus said, “Philosophy is for living, not just learning.”