Epictetus
Epictetus


The Self-sufficient Earth

Instead of being thankful that we need not take the same care of animals as of ourselves, we complain to God about the efforts we must make on our own behalf. Yet any one thing which exists should be enough to make a person see the providence of God, at least to a man who is modest and grateful. Don't speak to me of the difficulties of life, but only of such miracles as that milk is produced from grass through cows and goats, and cheese is produced from milk, and wool is made from skins! Who, may I ask, made these things or devised them? "No one," you say. Oh, if you believe that you are amazingly shameless and stupid!

Not only did God give us dominion over the Earth, He also made much of this Earth self-sufficient. Animals largely take care of themselves. A single boy may shepherd an entire flock of sheep (and the use of a dog makes it even easier). Epictetus chastises those who are ungrateful and those who think this too physically grueling. For, he notes, God even created the process by which grass can be eaten by a cow to produce milk.

With the marvels that modern science has brought us, we are even further removed from the labor of providing for our bodies. We should be thanking God every day for the tools called science and engineering that make our physical existence relatively easy. Epictetus sees the hand of providence in all this. As we shall see, he sees the hand of providence in every facet of life:

Chapter 16:

  1. Providence Provides
  2. The Self-sufficient Earth (16a)
  3. Women and Men (16b)
  4. Praise God with Your Intellect (16c)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus


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