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I found these words of wisdom in a book entitled: the art of living which presents the author’s (Sharon Lebell) interpretation of the teaching of Epictetus. I have always liked his philosophical teachings as they tend to be fairly straightforward and thus are easily understandable. From my perspective not having to struggle to try and figure out and decipher what the philosopher is really saying is appealing.

learning from the past

Epictetus lived between 55 and 135 A.D. being born into slavery during the Roman Empire. Once eventually freed he developed his philosophy about happiness, tranquility and fulfillment and spent the remainder of his life sharing this with others. I believe many of his words are still applicable today.

I was drawn to this book this morning and came across a passage that seems to articulate some of the same sentiments that I have been writing about lately. I wanted to share these words with you:

One cannot pursue one’s own highest good without at the same time necessarily promoting the good of others. A life based on narrow self-interest cannot be esteemed by any honorable measurement. Seeking the very best in ourselves means actively caring for the welfare of other human beings.  Our human contract is not with the few people with whom our affairs are most immediately intertwined, nor to the prominent, rich, or well educated, but to all our human brethren.  View yourself as a citizen of a worldwide community and act accordingly.”

I believe that these words speak to our choices to be citizens and as citizens to broaden our perspectives beyond our world as defined by family and friends or even like-minded individuals.  I have written much about choice as well as the opportunities that we have to participate in our ever-changing world.

As I outlined in a previous post (Ripples of choice, February 16, 2012) there are many aspects of our current world that we can change in our effort to save ourselves and the planet. Further, how things unfold in this ever evolving world is dependent on whether and how we choose to participate.

I am also very interested in examining some of the flaws that I feel exist in our current world and see Epictetus’s words as motivation to continue to do so. His promotion of being a citizen of a worldwide community in partnership with seeking one’s own highest good sounds good to me.


Irene McDermott © 2012