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Choice and The Duality of Things

There is duality in all things. And everything has two handles: One by which it may be carried, and the other by which it can't.

If, for example, your brother or sister treats you poorly, don't grasp the situation by the handle of hurt or injustice, or you won't be able to bear it and you will become bitter.

Do the opposite. Grasp the situation by the handle of familial ties. In other words, focus on the fact that this is your brother, or sister, that you were brought up together, and thus share an enduring, unbreakable bond.

Viewing the situation that way, you understand it correctly and preserve equilibrium. (Epictetus, Enchiridion)


"Revere the faculty which produces opinion. On this faculty it entirely depends whether there shall exist in your ruling part any opinion inconsistent with nature and the constitution of the rational animal. And this faculty promises freedom from hasty judgement, and friendships towards men, and obedience to the gods." (Meditations 3:9)


The faculty which produced opinion, is an aspect of the ruling part. Marcus' refers to our mind here. The faculty and the opinions it produces, can deliver us into freedom, or leave us inconsistent with nature, and inconsistent with other rational animals.


This faculty does not operate without input from the conscious mind of its owner. The opinions it generates are not set in stone. There is always choice. And as with the two different handles of every thing mentioned above, you get to choose the handle by which you grab something. There will be consequences to any choice you make. Whether you choose the easy or the difficult handle. This is cause and effect and a universal law which cannot be avoided, much like the grinding force of entropy, all things will be ground down into nothing eventually.


In the same way, all things have many names. Call Things by Their Right Names.

When we name things correctly, we comprehend them correctly, without adding information or judgements that aren't there.

Does someone bathe quickly? Don't say they bathe poorly, but quickly. Name the situation as it is; don't filter it through your judgements.

Does someone drink a lot of wine? Don't say they are a drunk, but that they drink a lot. Unless you possess a comprehensive understanding of their life, how do you know they are a drunk?

Do not risk being beguiled by appearances and constructing theories and interpretations based on distortions through misnaming. Give your assent only to that which is true. (Epictetus, Enchiridion)


"To the aids which have been mentioned let this one be added: Make for yourself a definition or description of the thing which is presented to you, so as to see distinctly what kind of thing it is in its substance, in its nakedness, in its entirety. And tell yourself its proper name, and the names of the things of which it has been compounded, and into which it will be resolved.

For nothing so produces elevation of the mind as to be able to examine methodically and truly every object which is presented to you in life. And always look at things so as to see at the same time what kind of universe this is, and what kind of use everything performs in it.

And what value everything has with reference to the whole, and what with reference to man, who is a citizen of the highest city, of which all other cities are like families, what each thing is, and of what it is composed, and how long it is the nature of this thing to endure which now makes an impression on me.

And what virtue I have need of with respect to it, such as gentleness, manliness, truth, fidelity, simplicity, contentment, and the rest.

Hence, on every occasion a man should say:

this comes from God, and this is according to the apportionment and spinning of the thread of destiny, and such coincidence and chance, and this is from one of the same stock, and a kinsman and partner, one who knows not however what is according to his nature.

But I know and for this reason I behave towards him according to the natural law of fellowship with benevolence and justice.

At the same time however in things indifferent I attempt to ascertain the value of each." (Meditations 3:11)


Knowing the right and proper name for a thing makes it easier to understand the way you should approach it. It helps you in determining which may be the most virtuous angle by which to engage. Being able to methodically determine the nature of objects, things, and events presented to you in this life elevates your mind, and your existence. It provides you the freedom to choose the right handle by which to grasp it.


In short, although it seems our minds make opinions which are set in stone, and we absorb these opinions and ideals into our person, our character, our being. This is not the entirety of our situation. We have the ability of higher thot, and the ability not to be directed by base desires and opinions. We have ultimate choice and overriding ability when it comes to these things.


"How long are you going to wait before you ask for the best for yourself?" (Epictetus)


Reading list:


Epictetus, 'Enchiridion'

Marcus Aurelius, 'Meditations'

Edith Eva Eger, 'The Choice', 'The Gift'

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