February 19, 2018 THE BANQUET OF LIFE

“Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don’t stop it. It hasn’t yet come? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth—one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods.” —EPICTETUS, ENCHIRIDION, 15

The next time you see something you want, remember Epictetus’s metaphor of life’s banquet. As you find yourself getting excited, ready to do anything and everything to get it—the equivalent of reaching across the table and grabbing a dish out of someone’s hands—just remind yourself: that’s bad manners and unnecessary. Then wait patiently for your turn.

This metaphor has other interpretations too. For instance, we might reflect that we’re lucky to have been invited to such a wonderful feast (gratitude). Or that we should take our time and savor the taste of what’s on offer (enjoying the present moment) but that to stuff ourselves sick with food and drink serves no one, least of all our health (gluttony is a deadly sin, after all). That at the end of the meal, it’s rude not to help the host clean up and do the dishes (selflessness). And finally, that next time, it’s our turn to host and treat others just as we had been treated (charity).

Enjoy the meal!”

Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman. “The Daily Stoic.”

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