May 6, 2018 - Ancient Stoicism in Plain English
Tag(s): Book Excerpts ||

Be Committed to Your Choice

Key ideas of this discourse

  1. Everything comes at a price.
  2. You can choose either restraint and dignity or having a good time without regard to anything else.
  3. You can have either, but you have to choose one.
  4. No matter what you choose, do it wholeheartedly.

This is an excerpt from the book Stoic Freedom. The complete book is available in print of ebook format from all online bookstores such as Kobo, Barnes & Noble andAmazon. https://amzn.to/2JnS7zA

Everything comes at a price

You should take care of this first before you do anything else: Be careful when associating with your former friends and acquaintances so you don’t sink to their level. Otherwise you may ruin yourself. You may be bothered by the idea that they might think you are awkward and so treat you differently. But remember; everything comes at a price. You can’t act the same way as you did before and yet be different.

Be single-minded about being a better person

So, choose. Do you want to go back to your old ways, so you may have the love of your friends, or be a better person even if you lose their affection? If you choose to be a better person, stick to it from now on. Let nothing distract you from this goal. You cannot make progress if you waver. If you are committed to this and ready to put in the effort, then give up everything else. Otherwise, by trying to be both at the same time, you will pay a double penalty. You will neither make progress nor retain the earlier friendships.

Before now, when you spent all your time doing frivolous things, your friends found you very agreeable. But you can’t do both equally well. If you follow one course of action, the other will fall short. If you don’t go out drinking with your old buddies the same way you did before, they won’t be too pleased with you.

So, choose. Do you want to be a charming drunk in their company or boring and sober on your own? If you don’t sing with them, you won’t please them as much as you did before.

So, again, choose.

No matter what you choose, do it wholeheartedly

If you value restraint and dignity over your old friends saying, “What a great guy!” then forget all other things, give them up, and walk away. Have nothing more to do with them. If you don’t like that, then commit to the other choice wholeheartedly. Be one of those degenerates, one of those adulterers, and indulge in your every impulse and desire to get what you want. Jump up in the theatre. Loudly applaud the dancer.

What you cannot do is to mix the two roles. You cannot be both Thersites and Agamemnon. Thersites was crippled and bald. Agamemnon was tall and handsome and loved his people.

Think about this

[Remember] everything comes at a price. It isn’t possible to change your behaviour and still be the same person as before. Discourses IV.2.2 Epictetus [RD]