Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Enchiridion -Epictetus

Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of things. Thus death is nothing terrible, else it would have appeared so to Socrates. But the terror consists in our notion of death, that it is terrible. When, therefore, we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never impute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own views. It is the action of an uninstructed person to reproach others for his own misfortunes; of one entering upon instruction, to reproach himself; and of one perfectly instructed, to reproach neither others nor himself.

V.

 

Demand not that events should happen as you wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.

VIII

 

Remember that you are an actor in a drama of such sort as the author chooses, –if short, then in a short one; if long, then in a long one. If it be his pleasure that you should enact a poor man, see that you act it well; or a cripple, or a ruler, or a private citizen. For this is your business, to act well a given part; but to choose it, belongs to another.

XVII

 

It is a mark of want of intellect, to spend much time in things relating to the body; as to be immoderate in exercise, in eating and drinking, and in the discharge of other animal functions. These things should be done incidentally and our main strength be applied to our reason.

XLI

 

 

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The Stairs

Some say the first step is the hardest. She never thought so. She stood on the flat earth and saw nothing but dust all around. The first step was easy. Something sparkled on it and called her nearer. A tiny whisper said, “I have secrets to tell.” It came from the step. It was a little prince with much wisdom.  A happy prince with tales to share. It said, “Now find the others, they too have secrets and will share them if you keep going.”

She saw a shadow in the distance from that first step. It was too dark to make out and she kept going. She climbed a great many steps and laughed and cried with them and found out all their secrets. She met many other climbers too as she ascended the stairs. All kinds and all ages. All manners of men and women and children. Some she left far behind. They were happy listening to their stair and enjoyed the view from there. But she had to keep going. There were too many secrets to learn and as she mounted each step she saw that the shadow that once was melting slowly away.

She decided to rest on one stair a long way up from where she started. They spoke for  while and sometimes she still calls out to it though it was years since she last saw it. This stair had a great many secrets to tell. So many people were there. It told of goodness and justice and helped her to understand the secrets of life, the ones she couldn’t see on her own. It told of the wickedness of men but showed her also the beauty of men, and what they could achieve.

She kept going and as she mounted she aged as well. Her hair turned steadily grey but her feet never wearied. She longed to reach the top but somehow knew she never would. She kept going though, because hope springs eternal as one of the stairs had told her. It was one of the secrets she learned early on. She stopped to rest again, for though the desire was still present, her body was giving away. Her will could keep her moving no longer. But as she turned to look at the view, she saw beauty where once was dust and this made her glad. She had attempted often along the way to explain to the ones that stopped that there was much more beauty up the stairs. They must keep going to see it. But they rarely listened. In the end she stopped trying and instead kept the joy to herself. There were others around her still but she found that the higher up one goes, the less one desires to speak. The beauty is too overwhelming to share with mere words. To understand, one must climb the heights along with her as far as mortality will allow for no matter what, once having seen what is, one can never ever go back to what was.

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Eugene Onegin – Pushkin

I never thought to amuse a disdainful world;
but friendly interest I do prize;
and you, my friend, I’d like to have presented
with a token worthier of you,
yes, worthier of your noble spirit,
so full of sublime imagination,
of lively, limpid poetry,
of lofty ideas and of simplicity.
But there it is. Be kind:
accept this batch of patchy chapters,
half-funny and half-sad,
idealistic, down-to-earth –
the slapdash product of my leisure hours,
my sleepless nights, my momentary inspirations,
of a life blighted ere its prime,
of a mind’s chilling observations,
and of a heart’s experience of pain.

***
So glut yourselves until you’re sated
on this unstable life, my friends!
its nullity I’ve always hated,
I know too surely how it ends.
I’m blind to every apparition;
and yet a distant admonition
of hope sometimes disturbs my heart;
it would be painful to depart
and leave no faint footprint of glory…
I never lived or wrote for praise;
yet how I wish that I might raise
to high renown my doleful story,
that there be just one voice which came,
like a true friend, to speak my name.

**

With womankind, the less we love them,
the easier they become to charm,
the tighter we can stretch above them
enticing nets to do them harm.

***

But wretched who anticipates,
Whose brain no fond illusions daze,
Who every gesture, every phrase
In true interpretation hates:
Whose heart experience icy made
And yet oblivion forbade.

***

Wherefore regarding him express
Perverse, unfavourable views?
Is it that human restlessness
For ever carps, condemns, pursues?
Is it that ardent souls of flame
By recklessness amuse or shame
Selfish nonentities around?
That mind which yearns for space is bound?
And that too often we receive
Professions eagerly for deeds,
That crass stupidity misleads,
That we by cant ourselves deceive,
That mediocrity alone
Without disgust we look upon?

***

But sad is the reflection made,
In vain was youth by us received,
That we her constantly betrayed
And she at last hath us deceived;
That our desires which noblest seemed,
The purest of the dreams we dreamed,
Have one by one all withered grown
Like rotten leaves by Autumn strown’
Tis fearful to anticipate
Nought but of dinners a long row,
To look on life as on a show,
Eternally to imitate
The seemly crowd, partaking nought
Its passions and its modes of thought.

**

To Love all ages lowly bend,
But the young unpolluted heart
His gusts should fertilize, amend,
As vernal storms the fields athwart.
Youth freshens beneath Passion’s showers,
Develops and matures its powers,
And thus in season the rich field
Gay flowers and luscious fruit doth yield.
But at a later, sterile age,
The solstice of our earthly years,
Mournful Love’s deadly trace appears
As storms which in chill autumn rage
And leave a marsh the fertile ground
And devastate the woods around.

***

Tatiana’s Letter (excerpt):

“Another! to none other I
My heart’s allegiance can resign,
My doom has been pronounced on high,
‘Tis Heaven’s will and I am thine.
The sum of my existence gone
But promise of our meeting gave,
I feel thou wast by God sent down
My guardian angel to the grave.
Thou didst to me in dreams appear,
Unseen thou wast already dear.
Thine eye subdued me with strange glance,
I heard thy voice’s resonance
Long ago. Dream it cannot be!
Scarce hadst thou entered thee I knew,
I flushed up, stupefied I grew,
And cried within myself: ’tis he!”

Yvegeny’s Letter (excerpt)

“But such is not for me. I brood
Daily of love in solitude.
My days of life approach their end,
Yet I in idleness expend
The remnant destiny concedes,
And thus each stubbornly proceeds.
I feel, allotted is my span;
But, that life longer may remain,
At morn I must assuredly
Know that thy face that day I see.

___

So be it! But internal strife
I cannot longer wage concealed.
The die is cast! Thine is my life!
Into thy hands my fate I yield!”

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