If you take on a role that is beyond your capacities, you will not only disgrace yourself in that role, but neglect the role you were capable of fulfilling.
Epictetus has many important things to say about the roles that belong to us by nature & by choice. But suppose we begin, as good Stoics should, by considering whether a given role is "up to us" or in our power. Not just the choice of it, but the ability to carry out the tasks & obligations it involves. Something is in our power for Epictetus, recall, only if nothing can hinder or prevent us from realizing it.
Consider then our roles as a parent or a neighbor or a citizen or teacher. Can nothing prevent or frustrate us from fulfilling these roles? Can nothing deprive us entirely of these roles, and, in their place, inflict upon us other roles we would study to avoid? Aren't our roles & relationships in fact externals, and in consequence, ultimately matters of indifference?
"Yes, but preferred indifferents. Choiceworthy things as things go in the realm of externals." The first problem with this answer is that it leave me unmotivated to essay some of these arduous roles & responsibilities if what I'm pursuing is not even a good. Why undertake the struggles of parenting or playing the good citizen? Now if the answer to this question is that I should undertake those roles that God wishes and has planned for me to undertake, the discussion comes to halt in different views of human freedom.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005