February 09, 2020 in articles
Sam Torode wrote this book as his own interpretation of the wisdom of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. The book is so short that I could finish it in one seating. But it has some interesting lessons about how to think of and to deal with the unfavorable things that are coming at us.
I used to (and probably will still) be envy of people who made it big in life. I knew they paid the price for their successes with their money, health, energy, mental power, and time—time they could have spent with their loved ones. It made me feel lousy for not deciding to pay the same price. But this passage made it easier for me to appreciate my own decision.
Everything has its price. How much does lettuce cost? If you are unwilling to pay a dollar for lettuce, yet you envy the man who has a bagful of lettuce because he paid five dollars, you are a fool. Do not imagine he has gained an advantage over you—he has his lettuce, you have your coins.
Sam Torode also has a message for silicon valey bros, and all of us:
Once you have reigned in your bodily appetites, do not brag about it. Ask for water, but do not announce at the table, “I only drink water.” Consider how much austere are the poor than you, and how much greater the hardships they endure. Do not make a spectacle of self-deprivation. When you fast, tell no one.
I also learned that philosopher’s life is about being humble:
Do not take satisfaction in possessions and achievements that are not your own. If a horse were to say, “I am handsome,” his pride may be excusable. But if you boast, “I have a handsome horse,” you are claiming merit that is not yours. What, then, is your own? The way you live your life. When you are living in harmony with nature, you can take just satisfaction.
But it doesn’t mean to be emotionless:
When you see a person weeping with grief—for instance, a woman lamenting that her daughter has moved away, or a man crying over a business loss—take care to distinguish between events themselves, and our interpretations. Remind your self, “What upsets this person is their opinion of what has happened. Another in the same circumstance, taking a different perspective, would react quite differently.” Do not share these thoughts with the grieving person. Sympathize with them—even cry with them. Your tears will outward, not inward.
While it’s short, I might need to read this book more than once. It takes time to digest the many lessons and wisdom in this book. But for now, that’s my second book of the year.
Articles, drawings, and codes by Nico Prananta, a software developer (iOS and web) and digital artist (for fun!) in Basel, Switzerland. I'm on Twitter.