Connections – with Epictetus

In a world with billions of people, and seemingly limited resources and opportunities, different strategies are employed especially by those who feel the need to make a mark. There is no guaranteed formula, the visionaries focus on their visions, others on connections – divine or mortal. As has been observed from antiquity however, there is much more focus on the mortal connections than divine, regardless of what people claim. Most people feel more confident in their human connections than in the divine despite professing the divine to be all powerful. The few who who truly trust in divine connection are indeed lucky. The excerpt below captures this.

… But if Cæsar (the emperor) should adopt you, no one could endure your arrogance; and if you know that you are the son of Zeus, will you not be elated? Yet we do not so; but since these two things are mingled in the generation of man, body in common with the animals, and reason and intelligence in common with the gods, many incline to this kinship, which is miserable and mortal; and some few to that which is divine and happy…

The Discourses of Epictetus

Translated by George Long

In some climes the arrival of “big men” is greeted with a lot of commotion, pomp and fair. Adrenaline seems to be on the rise, with a lot of people running helter skelter, (I always wonder at the commotion). People scramble and fall over themselves to get within range, of these mere mortals, perhaps hoping for a life changing moment. Most times we fail to realize that while the favor of a king is good, his heart is also in the hands of the divine.

Some will give an arm and a leg to come to the notice of the powers that be, to get connected; with many being of the opinion that this is the only or fastest way to succeed. The lucky few however have different opinions about success; realizing that the dignity of not scrambling around for hand outs, but working hard towards a vision whether they are being noticed or not is success.

“… Why then do not I force my way in? Because I know that nothing good is distributed within to those who enter. But when I hear any man called fortunate because he is honored by Cæsar, I say what does he happen to get? A province (the government of a province). Does he also obtain an opinion such as he ought? The office of a Prefect. Does he also obtain the power of using his office well? Why do I still strive to enter (Caesar’s chamber)? A man scatters dried figs and nuts: the children seize them, and fight with one another; men do not, for they think them to be a small matter. But if a man should throw about shells, even the children do not seize them. Provinces are distributed: let children look to that. Money is distributed; let children look to that. Prætorships, consulships, are distributed; let children scramble for them, let them be shut out, beaten, kiss the hands of the giver, of the slaves: but to me these are only dried figs and nuts. What then? If you fail to get them, while Cæsar is scattering them about, do not be troubled; if a dried fig come into your lap, take it and eat it; for so far you may value even a fig. But if I shall stoop down and turn another over, or be turned over by another, and shall flatter those who have got into (Caesar’s) chamber, neither is a dried fig worth the trouble, nor anything else of the things which are not good, which the philosophers have persuaded me not to think good.

The Discourses of Epictetus

Translated by George Long

Not all play fair when it comes to getting connections. Rather than spending valuable time reflecting on how to move things forward, many would spend that time scheming and plotting to eliminate others, with tactics that include the sabotaging efforts of the common goal. There is really no care about the task at hand or overarching goal, it’s simply about power. They are like the children mentioned by Epictetus, seeking power for the sake of it, not for the good it was designed for.

Superior, lucky and happy is he however, who rises above all the scheming and power play, and considers the benefits associated with mortal connections as nothing more than dried figs; and would rather focus his energy on that which matters – loving his neighbour as himself, and doing unto others as he would like to be done to him.

A fig tree – Wikipedia

Dr Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher