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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Learning from old wisdom

Very few people had the ability to write, let alone get a proper education 2,000 years ago, and this resulted on many sayings becoming lost to the ages.

This, to me, makes the writings of Epictetus and Marcus Aureleus all the more impressive.

It may be true that many of these sayings are not truly theirs, but they wrote them for history’s sake, and they are thus credited with them.

Parents, grandparents, role models, politicians and even, perhaps, yourself, have repeated one or another of these not even knowing where it came from.

For example, who do you think came up with the following?

“Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.”

Mary Kay repeated this saying so many times you would have thought she’s the one who created it. But she didn’t. It was Epictetus.

He also wrote this:

“A man that seeks truth and loves it must be reckoned precious to any human society.”

I think it’s better to get every side of history and current events and to decide for myself, than to get one side and be ignorant.

“Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant,” and “Control thy passions, lest they take vengeance on thee.”

How many different ways have these been stated over the years?

“First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”

I love that one.

I think it was Dale Carnegie in his book “How to Meat Friends and Influence People” who wrote that one should focus on never saying “I.”

Try that for a day: never saying I. I have. It’s hard. It’s neat, though, because the focus of conversation is shifted to the other person.

Carnegie wrote that when one person tells a story, it’s only natural for you to want to one-up that person’s story with a better one of your own. Doing this only shows how selfish we are. Thus, we are better off never to say “I.”

“Freedom is the right to live as we wish.”

We are all born free. We are all born with the right to protect ourselves from our enemies, to speak out against those who rule us, to choose our own religion, to peaceably assemble, to form a militia, to a fair and just trial of our peers. Only a government can take these rights away.

It is a common fallacy that the U.S. Constitution grants us our freedom. It simply protects the freedoms we are born with. Its purpose is to prevent the government from taking away what is justly, inherently and inalienably ours from the beginning.

We are born with these rights, but few governments prior to July 4, 1776, respected this right. Sometimes we forget that.
Or, in the case of the college student who had no clue who the President of the United States was, sometimes we are ignorant of our past.

Which brings me to a great quote by Marcus. It’s a long one, so bear with me:

"Remember how often you have postponed minding your interest, and let slip those opportunities the gods have given you. It is now high time to consider what sort of world you are part of, and from what kind of governor of it you are descended; that you have a set period assigned you to act in, and unless you improve it to brighten and compose your thoughts, it will quickly run off with you, and be lost beyond recovery."

I guess you have to grow up sometime. For most of us guys it either takes place when we get married (our wives tame us), or it never happens.

Epictetus: “God has entrusted me with myself.”

A big responsibility that is.

Which reminds me of a coworker saying, “The patient always comes first,” when I asked her why she didn’t take 15 minutes from her busy night to eat.

I told her, “If you don’t take care of yourself, and you get sick, what good will you be to that patient?”
Marcus Aurelius wrote, "The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding one’s self in the ranks of the insane."

It’s far easier to wait until a majority decides on a Presidential candidate than it is to choose the one who best represents your views now and vote for that person regardless of what the majority thinks.

Sure, your candidate may stand no chance of getting elected, but it’s far better to vote for the better candidate than to join the ranks of the insane, which most independants do because it makes them feel good to be a part of the majority.

It’s far easier to join the ranks of the insane than to vote against socialized healthcare, higher taxes for the rich, environmental regulations that punish the economy, or feel good pork bills that benefit one at the expense of the many.

It's easier to join that ranks of the insane, than to question the global warming advocates. I'm just saying.
Epictetus wrote, "He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."

Or, as Ben Franklin wrote in his autobiography, "Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

Epictetus wrote, "If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it."
Laughter is a cure all.

"If you wish to be a writer, write."

Thank God these guys did. We are a better people for it, and getting better all the time because these old thinkers wrote so we could learn from their present to better ours.

Even though we don’t always know the source, we never stop learning from old wisdom. Because old philosophy, wisdom from the ages, still rings true.


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