Masters and Slaves

During the Roman Empire there lived a slave who was freed from slavery to a self-styled “master” and became a philosopher. He was later kicked out of Rome by a higher “master,” one of the lesser Roman emperors, for being an academic (something all self-styled masters–be it of household slaves, employees, or the common man—greatly fear…and justly so for none so threaten a master as a thinker). Epictetus, the name by which we know this thinker, went on to free himself from the ties that bound him and left behind some very dangerous thoughts.

Zeus said to Epictetus: “I have given you…this faculty of desire and aversion…and if you will take care of this faculty and consider it your only possession, you will never be hindered, never meet with impediments; you will not lament, you will not blame, you will not flatter any person….”

when it is in our power to look after one thing, and to attach ourselves to it, we prefer to look after many things….Since, then, we are bound to many things, we are depressed by them and dragged down.

“[the goal is] “to have studied what a man ought to study; to have made desire…free from all that a man would avoid….Like a man who gives up what belongs to another. [The Discourses of Epictetus Book One, Ch. 1 in Britannica Great Books 12: 105-6.]

Evidently, the Roman Empire discovered the ills of the consumer society two millenia before us! Too bad that the modern rulers of the universe have not yet acquired the maturity to avoid grabbing “what belongs to another.”

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