But you take a journey to Olympia to see the work of Phidias, and you think it a misfortune to die without having seen such things. But when there is no need to take a journey, and where a man is, there he has the works of God before him, will you not desire to see and understand them? Will you not perceive either what you are, or what you were born for, or what this is for which you have received the faculty of sight? But you may say, "There are some things disagreeable and troublesome in life." And are there none in Olympia? Are you not scorched? Are you not pressed by a crowd? Are you not without comfortable means of bathing? Are you not wet when it rains? Have you not abundance of noise, clamor, and other disagreeable things? But I suppose that setting all these things off against the magnificence of the spectacle, you bear and endure. Well, then, and have you not received faculties by which you will be able to bear all that happens? Have you not received greatness of soul? Have you not received manliness? Have you not received endurance? And why do I trouble myself about anything that can happen if I possess greatness of soul? What shall distract my mind or disturb me, or appear painful? Shall I not use the power for the purposes for which I received it, and shall I grieve and lament over what happens?
Epictetus reminds us that we do not have to travel to the Grand Canyon to see the glorious hand of God in nature. The wonder of the universe is about us every moment of the day. It is within our sight in the complexity and beauty of a dragon fly as it hovers in our backyard. It is in the uniqueness and form of every snowflake that flutters to the ground on our driveway (which we will soon have to shovel). It is in every human being, especially in that special faculty we are given to understand God's works.
It is in contemplating these things that we find fulfillment in our lives. The modern pop-psychology that says we should "stop and smell the roses," is not far from the mark. We contemplate the greatness and order of the universe; we find the hand of God; we find comfort in the face of adversity.
But as we find out in the next paragraph, contemplation is not the end of it. Contemplation should lead to positive action.
Stoicism and Christianity Index
- On Providence
- The Workman (6a)
- The Rational Facility (6b)
- Backyard Magnificence (6c)
- Exercise Your Will! (6d)