Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ReView of THE ART OF LIVING by Epictetus & Sharon Lebell

Genre: Philosophy
Format: Paperback
Length: 144 pages
Publisher: HarperOne
First Published: 2007

This review is part of my project on the Top Ten Books on Happiness.  I decided to start with this book because it's the one book that I have come back to for lot of moral and spiritual reminders.  I discovered Epictetus a while back and ever since then, no one has come close to being so powerful enlightening and offering so much tranquil power.
"Epictetus was born into slavery about 55 ce in the eastern outreaches of the Roman Empire. Once freed, he established an influential school of Stoic philosophy, stressing that human beings cannot control life, only their responses to it. By putting into practice the ninety-three witty, wise, and razor-sharp instructions that make up The Art of Living, readers learn to meet the challenges of everyday life successfully and to face life's inevitable losses and disappointments with grace."
This book is about gradual refinement of personal character.  It's a book whose premise on happiness lies in the eloquence of action, living with dignity and tranquility, and most of all moral progress. "A happy life and a virtuous life are synonymous," according to Epictetus. "His prescription for the good life centered on three main themes: mastering your desires; performing your duties; and learning to think clearly about yourself and your relations with the larger community of humanity." Summed up, that's pretty much what this book is about and it works to a tee.

The components of the books are as follows.  It's the pocket manual for everything you need to know about going through your own personal character refinment.

  • Know what you can control and what you can't
  • Stick with your own business
  • Recognize appearances for what they really are
  • Desire demands its own attainment
  • See things what they really are
  • Harmonize your actions with the way life is
  • Events don't hurt us, but our views of them can
  • No shame, no blame
  • Create your own merit
  • Focus on your main duty
  • Accept Events as they Occur
  • Your will is always within your power
  • Make full use of what happens to you
  • Care for what you happen to have
  • The good life is the life of inner serenity
  • Disregard what doesn't concern you
  • Conform your wishes to reality
  • Approach life as a banquet
  • Avoid adopting other people's negative views
  • Act well the part that is given to you
  • Everything happens for a good reason
  • Happiness can only be found within
  • No one can hurt  you
  • Spiritual progress is made through confronting death and calamity
  • Implant in yourself the ideals you ought to cherish
  • The pursuit of wisdom attracts critics
  • Seeking to please is a perilous trap
  • Character matters more than reputation
  • All advantages have their price
  • Make the will of nature your own
  • Self-Mastery is our true aim
  • Treasure your mind, cherish your reason, hold to your purpose
  • Consider what comes first, then what follows, and then act
  • Our duties are revealed by our relations with one another
  • The essence of faithfulness
  • Events are impersonal and indifferent
  • Never suppress a generous impulse
  • Clearly define the person you want to be
  • Speak only with good purpose
  • Avoid most popular entertainment
  • Be careful about the company you keep
  • Take care of your body
  • Avoid casual sex
  • Don't defend your reputation or intentions
  • Conduct yourself with dignity
  • Emulate worthy role models
  • Exercise discretion when conversing
  • Prefer enduring satisfaction to immediate gratification
  • Take a stand
  • Courtesy and logic each have their place
  • Self-mastery depends on self-honesty
  • Safeguard your reason
  • Observe proper proportion and moderation
  • Inner excellence matters more than outer appearance
  • Care about your mind more than your body
  • Mistreatment comes from false impressions
  • Everything has two handles
  • Clear thinking is vital
  • Call Things by their right name
  • Wisdom is revealed through action, not talk
  • Live simply for your own sake
  • Wisdom depends on vigilance
  • Living wisdom is more important than knowing about it
  • Practicing Principles matters more than providing them
  • Start living your ideals
  • The soul's cry
  • The real purpose of philosophy
  • The first step
  • The flourishing life depends on self-sufficiency
  • Starting our is hard
  • Good is good
  • Be suspicious of convention
  • The virtuous are invincible
  • Be a citizen of the world
  • Consider your deepest yearnings merely as facts
  • The right use of books
  • Exercise caution when mingling with others
  • Forgive over and over and over
  • The virtuous are consistent
  • Trust your moral intuitions
  • Don't be angry at wrongdoers
  • The only prosperous life is the virtuous life
  • Pursue the good ardently
  • What is important and what isn't
  • Reason is supreme
  • Learn to heal yourself
  • Stay the course, in good weather and bad
  • Be grateful
  • Never causally discuss important matters
  • What makes us truly happy
  • The power of habit
  • Caretake this moment
This book is your pocket guide manual to all things of a virtuous life combine with grace and tranquility.  This book has consistently been my reminder of my own principles and has always guided me back to my center.  I almost always carry it with me.  It's the one book that has brought me the most direct wisdom with the most use.  It's broad but strongly effective on every level.

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