The Daily Stoic: January 21, 2021

Filed in PhilosophyTags: Clarity, Daily Stoic, Epictetus, Perception

Reflections on The Daily Stoic:

  • The Discipline of Perception
  • January's Theme: Clarity
  • Topic: A Morning Ritual
  • Stoic: Epictetus

Today's quote:

Ask yourself the following first thing in the morning:

  • What am I lacking in attaining freedom from passion?
  • What for tranquility?
  • What am I? A mere body, estate-holder, or reputation? None of these things.
  • What, then? A rational being.
  • What then is demanded of me? Meditate on your actions.
  • How did I steer away from serenity?
  • What did I do that was unfriendly, unsocial, or uncaring?
  • What did I fail to do in all these things?

- Discourses, 4.6.34-35

The Big Idea here is the concept of taking time regularly - each day, each morning, perhaps - to look inward, examine, and reflect. While Epictetus calls his students to reflect on Stoic philosophy, there is a biblical parallel. "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." (Joshua 1:8) "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night." (Psalm 1:1-2)

Yes, we are called to meditate - to look inward and to examine - and to strive for those inward thoughts to reflect God's law and will. "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14) This theme is repeated throughout Psalms.

Much as Epictetus asks his followers to perform this ritual of self-examination, we are likewise called to self-examination, to ensure that we are following God: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?" (II Corinthians 13:5) We are called to such self-examination even before we partake of Communion: "So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves." (I Corinthians 11:27-29)

And to what end do we perform this self-examination? To return to God's path: "Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord." (Lamentations 3:40)