Death Not Desired or Feared
A man asked me to write to Rome about him, a man who, as most people thought, had been unfortunate. Formerly he was a man of rank and rich, but he had been stripped of all, and was living here. I wrote on his behalf in a submissive manner; but when he had read the letter, he gave it back to me and said, "I wished for your help, not for your pity. No evil has happened to me."
Thus also Musonius Rufus, in order to try me, used to say: "This and this will befall you from your master." I replied that these were things which happen in the ordinary course of human affairs. "Why, then," said he, "should I ask him for anything when I can obtain it from you?" For what a man has from himself, it is superfluous and foolish to receive from another? Shall I, then, who am able to receive from myself greatness of soul and a generous spirit, receive from you land and money or a magisterial office? I hope not. I will not be so ignorant about my own possessions.
Remember that Epictetus had been a slave. Rufus his teacher knew this and threatened him occasionally with the will of his master. In ancient Rome the master had the power of life and death over his slave.
Epictetus refused to be worried about the fact that his master could dispatch his life at any moment. He understood the two facets that every honorable person must understand about death. First, that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Since death only brings us closer to God it is not to be feared. It cannot be used as a cudgel to force us to unrighteousness. On the other hand it is not to be rushed to with open arms, for God placed us in this world for a reason.
Stoicism and Christianity Index
- Our Relationship with God Has Consequences
- The Power of God Protects (9a)
- Sustenance (9b)
- The Philosopher's Job (9c)
- Our Mission (9d)
- Death Not Desired or Feared (9e)
- The Worthless Life (9f)