The Discourses of Epictetus, tr. by P.E Matheson, , at sacred-texts.com
We should have each judgement ready at the moment when it is needed: judgements on dinner at dinner-time, on the bath at bathing-time, on bed at bedtime.
Keep hold of these lines for practical use, not to declaim them as a cry like 'Paean Apollo'. Again in a fever we must be ready with judgements for that; if we fall into a fever we must not give up and forget everything, and say, 'If I ever study philosophy again, may the worst befall me! I must go off somewhere and attend to my poor body.' Well, but does not fever come there? What does studying philosophy mean? Does it not mean preparing to face events? Do you not understand then that what you are saying comes to this, 'If I go on preparing to bear events quietly, may the worst befall me'? That is as though a man should give up competing for the pancration because he has been struck. But there it is possible to leave off and so escape a beating: but what profit do we get if we leave off studying philosophy?
What ought one to say then as each hardship comes? 'I was practising for this, I was training for this.' God says to you, 'Give me a proof, whether you have kept the rules of wrestling—eaten the proper food, trained, and obeyed the trainer.' After that, are you going to play the coward when the moment of action comes? If now is the time for fever, take your fever in the right way; if for thirst, thirst in the right way, if for hunger, hunger aright. Is it not in your power? Who will hinder you? The physician will hinder you from drinking, but he
cannot hinder you from thirsting aright: he will hinder you from eating, but he cannot hinder you from hungering in the right way. 'But am I not a student?'
Why are you a student? Slave, is it not that you may be happy and have peace of mind? Is it not that you may conform to nature and so live your life? What hinders you in a fever from keeping your Governing Principle in accord with Nature? Here is the test of the matter, this is how the philosopher is proved. For fever too is a part of life, like walking, sailing, travelling. Do you read when you are walking? No. Nor do you in a fever: but if you walk aright, you have done your part as a walker; if you bear your fever aright, you have done your part as a sick man. What does bearing fever rightly mean? It means not to blame God or man, not to be crushed by what happens, to await death in a right spirit, to do what you are bidden; when the physician comes in, not to be afraid of what he may say, and if he says, 'You are doing well', not to be overjoyed: for what good is there in that? What good had you when you were in health? It means not to be disheartened if he says, 'You are doing badly'; for what does 'doing badly' mean? It means drawing near the dissolution of the soul from the body. What is there to fear in that? If you do not draw near now, shall you not draw near later? Is the world going to be turned upside down by your death? Why then do you coax the physician? Why do you say, 'Master, if you will, I shall get well'? Why do you give him occasion to lift his brow in arrogance? As you give the shoemaker his due in regard to the foot, the builder in regard to the house, why do you not give the physician his due (and no more) in regard to the paltry body, for the body is not mine and is naturally dead? This is what the moment requires from the man in a fever: if he fulfils these requirements, he has what is his own.
It is not the business of the philosopher to guard these outward things—paltry wine or oil or body—but to guard his Governing Principle. How is he to regard outward things? Only so far that he does not concern himself with them unreasonably. What occasion is left then for fear? What occasion for anger, what occasion for fear concerning things that are not our own, nor of any value? For the two principles we must have ready at command are these: that outside the will there is nothing good or evil, and that we must not lead events but follow them. 'My brother ought not to have behaved so to me.' No, but it is his business to look to that; however he may behave, I will deal with him as I ought. This is my part, that is another's: this no one can hinder, that is subject to hindrance.