Love and You Will Be Free

Just got out of philosophy.  We are studying a section on the meaning of life.  We just finished studying Epicurus who is a hedonist (although he’s not concerned with a profligate life, but a prudent one).  He believes the way to THE GOOD is found through pleasure (and avoidance of pain).  THE GOOD is that which philosophers are interested in obtaining.  It’s defined differently by different philosophers but usually entails live a tranquil life/obtaining peace of mind.

We just started studying Epictetus (What is it with these Greek names?  What were their mothers thinking???) who is a stoic.  Stoicism is also concerned with finding THE GOOD and living a tranquil life, but it gets there differently.  Stoicism teaches that we should resign ourselves to fate, submit to our duty and thereby we will obtain peace.

Stoicism appealed to both slave and emperor.  (Epictetus was born a slave, and Marcus Aurelius was also a stoic.)  Stoicism is concerned not with what happens to us, but with our perceptions (as in judgments not the sensations that Epicurus was concerned with) of what happens to us. 

Seneca was also a stoic and I agree with his statement, “For mere living is not a good, but living well.”  That’s a concept I’ve been concerned with for as long as I can remember.  However, Seneca’s interpretation of this leads him to the belief that suicide is both ok and good.  I disagree.  If one’s life enters the condition of mere living Seneca would argue that one should then end it.  I would argue that one should work to make changes (in circumstances, perceptions, etc.) that would allow one to live well.

In reading what Epictetus had to say I think that Paul (of the New Testament) holds to some of these ideas within stoicism–namely that of being content within himself no matter what the circumstances outside of himself are. 

I don’t hold with all the ideas of stoicism.  Epictetus actually said, “Laugh seldom and about few things and with restraint.”  Science tells us laughing is good for the immune system, and those that laugh often are healthier.  For me, laughter is a part of living life well!

Nor do I agree with this idea that fate is unavoidable.  Being more of an existentialist I believe that humans always have choices.  In the extreme, if our choices are reduced there remains at least always one–the choice on how we will perceive our life, self, circumstances.  That choice is the only true choice that Epictetus believes we have.  He did get that right so I’ll give him some props there! 

Epictetus asserts that to be free one should focus on what one controls (“perception, intention, desire, aversion, and in sum whatever are our own doings) and that to attempt to seek or avoid what others control (body, property, reputation, political office and in sum, whatever are not our own doings) will make us a slave.  This led me to the thought–If you seek to be loved, you are a slave.  Love and you are free. 

Unsurprisingly, the previous thought led me to Viktor E. Frankl (an existentialist) who said that the poets were right when they said that “in and through love is man’s salvation.”  Frankl was not talking about being loved, but rather about loving someone (regardless of whether that person was present or even alive.)  In fact, loving someone is one of the three ways in which Frankl argues one can find meaning of life. 

You cannot make someone love you.  However, you can choose to love someone–whether they love you or not. 

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