Alok's Reviews > Of Human Freedom

Of Human Freedom by Epictetus
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2019-final-reading-list, favorites, philosophy, stoicism, for-worst-time, non-fiction
Read 2 times. Last read January 2019.

10 stars! Instant favorite, I've read it over 5 times in 2 months. This lessened my pain in extremely tough times as much as a book can.

I must die. But must I die bawling? I must be put in chains – but moaning and groaning too? I must be exiled; but is there anything to keep me from going with a smile, calm and self-composed?

This was the only book I'd managed to read for the last two months and it may not have saved my life but it really helped me survive the unendurable pain. This is a gem of a book and I've already read it 5 times. I must have read the first chapter over 2 dozen times. I've memorized most of it.

When I go through suffering I rely on knowledge, rationality and wisdom to overcome it. I'm not a people person and I've learned over and again with few exceptions that opening up to people doesn't help me. I look within. As Marcus Aurelius put it, "Retreat to consult your own soul and then return to face what awaits you."

However that no longer works in death. And my suffering of the last two months began with a death of loved one. Whatever little knowledge and wisdom I had, had left me. I was mentally numbed then tolerable physical pain began to become unbearable. And it hurt in any and all movements, heck even breathing.

I had to have a procedure involving big, dagger like needles that'd take samples from my stomach cavity. I'd been waiting for 3 hours. I was randomly searching for something that would soothe my scarred psyche. Something from Stoicism. I'd downloaded this book a long time back and I opened it up. I couldn't even finish the first chapter and I was called for the procedure.

As the procedure began, I tried to distract myself, imagining fluffy things - like my crush leaning over to kiss. Almost there and the damn needle pierced and I screamed and Robin disappeared. Sigh. As I was screaming, the doctor, said "No fluid here, we'd need to do it again." I again imagined a different person and she too disappeared but the pain wasn't lessened. Doctor determined she'd need to repeat it for a third time. I looked down at the blood flowing and the size of the needle. And closed my eyes

As my eyes filled with tears, my mind recalled a phrase from this book about someone sentenced to beheading by Nero and when the executioner missed a clear cut, he breathed in and put his head again so the executioner could behead properly.

My mind in its funny voice repeated, "My dude here when he was being executed he put his head back again and you're about to cry?" Then he repeated, Epictetus's words: "So you must go but wailing and crying too?" And when the doctor said that she'd have to repeat 4th time, I was laughing. It lasted over 10 minutes once the needle was in but thankfully she didn't repeat for the fifth time. And I didn't cry.

This was just a first of over a dozen similar or much worse procedures. And though there were procedures that made me essentially lose consciousness with pain, except them this always helped me.

I think it's futile to write on what it contains but how helpful its contents are.

It’s only my leg you will chain, not even God can conquer my will.

In brief, Epictetus was a slave and his thoughts on what it means to truly free are brilliant and perhaps unprecedented in history when keeping slaves was a norm. The essence is his emphasis on focusing what we can control and bearing whatever we can't in the best manner possible.

This is part of the larger work by Epictetus called Discourses which I'd immediately ordered when I reached home. I've also finished it and would write its separate review later.
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Reading Progress

December, 2018 – Started Reading
December, 2018 – Finished Reading
January, 2019 – Started Reading
January, 2019 – Finished Reading
February 3, 2019 – Shelved
February 3, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019-final-reading-list
February 3, 2019 – Shelved as: favorites
February 12, 2019 – Shelved as: philosophy
February 12, 2019 – Shelved as: stoicism
February 12, 2019 – Shelved as: for-worst-time
February 16, 2019 – Shelved as: non-fiction

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