Its all down to perception

Epictetus was a very famous Greek philosopher. Below is one of his brilliant quotes, which was centuries ahead of its time.

“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” – Epictetus

Take a moment to relax, and reflect on that quote, men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.

Tell me if I am wrong, but that implies that everything is simply down to interpretation. If you view something as good, it’s good, similarly if something is terrible, that’s your view.

I recently saw a video from inside a Romanian orphanage. The children had been deprived all their life from any sort of attachment and consequently suffered severe privation.

In the video (without meaning to get too graphic) I saw children sitting on the floor, just sitting there, rocking backwards and forwards, looking completely empty. I also saw children smashing their heads against a wall, just constantly banging, the sign of insanity beyond belief.

Somewhere deep down inside me, something snapped, and I just couldn’t bring myself to watch any more of the video. Pause.

Now that is wrong, without a doubt, that sort of neglect is 100% wrong. However, if we take into account the original quote from Epictetus, then really, that’s just my point of view. To someone else, maybe to a Romanian orphan, that might be perfectly okay.

Even as one with an open philosophical mind, I still can’t bring myself to comprehend how in any possible way, someone could call that right or good.

Maybe a bit of an extreme example, so lets try another.

Say you are in a traffic jam and you are late for somewhere, anywhere, but it’s important. You could interpret the jam as an opportunity to have a rest. Sink into your chair, put the radio on and relax.

A traffic jam

On the other hand you could go ballistic. You could be shouting and screaming and pulling your hair out, as you are going to be late.

This can be applied to what Epictetus said. You can ether let things in life bother you, or you can choose to stay ‘in control’ and just carry on.

Ask yourself this, how do you approach things, do you let things bother you, or do you just sit on by?

In the case of the Romanian orphans, sitting by is probably the worst of the two options, but is it when you are stuck in traffic?

Well then, that quote from Epictetus was certainly a good one, and I am really glad I found it. What is your point of view on it though, is it realistic, are things how they are because that’s how we see them, or is that just how they are? Your views and comments are welcome as always 🙂

12 Responses

  • I believe there is absolute truth and absolute untruth, absolute good and absolute evil. However, many other things, like your traffic jam example, are not inherently good or evil–they just are. We can choose to respond to those situations either positively or negatively.

    Although we should never deny absolute truth or condone absolute evil, we should make the positive choice in other situations

    • I see your point Lillie, nice way of viewing things 🙂

      Sorry about the commenting issue, that I had for a while, I can assure you all is working well now 🙂

  • I did try to comment before … and today?

    Wish you would move that ad, which breaks the thread of your blog post. Last time I was here, just as you write ‘something snapped’ I got an imvu ad, today it is hamburgers, and I’m a vegetarian ;~) It is an interesting take on philosophy to sandwich your post around an ad. Your blog, your choice.

    Diana of EE

    • The reason you were probably not able to comment when you last tried Diana, was because I has having some technical issues with GASP my comment spam reduction plugin. Sorry for any inconvenience Diana, the issue is now solved.

      “Last time I was here, just as you write ‘something snapped’ I got an imvu ad, today it is hamburgers, and I’m a vegetarian ;~)” – My apologies Diana, I use Google AdSense, and sometimes it shows irrelevant ads. I have tried to block any ads that could cause offense, and I think I have been successful. Usually it will show philosophical related ads, but sometimes it doesn’t… sorry about that!

      I would usually throw it out to the side of the text, so as not for it to get in the way like I usually do on my technology blog, but it’s much harder to do that with WordPress 😛

      Thanks for dropping by Diana 🙂

      P.S – Why not try using KeywordLuv for your name, entering Diana@Elephant’s Eye would show as Diana from Elephant’s Eye. You get your keywords, my readers know what your name is 🙂
      One last thing, 2 more comments and all your comments become dofollow!

  • Wow, philosophy ads? Ads for philosophy?? I did block dating ads, when they came back anyway, I deleted AdSense, and put up a post about it.

    My comments come thru as ‘Elephant’s Eye’ which advertises my blog name, and that is what, and all, I want. I only have to remember to say, Diana here, when I am in Ari’s circle not my own.

    Please, can you point me to an explanation for dofollow? I see someone follows Ari because he is PG4 and dofollow. I am PG4, but mystified by dofollow??

    (still Diana ;~)

    • “Practical philosophy, 10 week practical philosophy course…” and “Philosophy degrees…” are just a few examples 🙂

      “I did block dating ads, when they came back anyway, I deleted AdSense, and put up a post about it.” – You got a permanent to that? You should have contacted AdSense, they might have been able to sort something out 🙂

      “I see someone follows Ari because he is PG4 and dofollow. ” – We have been reading the same comments! Keith Davis on ‘Who is Ari Herzog to You?’

      I replied to that comment and without meaning to boast, I think I have had a great idea! Go on over and have a look 🙂

      What is dofollow? Diana, you have just giving me today’s technology article, I will tell you where to go when it’s written 🙂

  • Aha, if you mouse over ‘Elephant’s Eye’ it is an active link straight to the blog. Does that equal dofollow in blogspot, as opposed to WordPress??

  • Hi Chris
    “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.”

    Good quote and a couple of nice examples to clarify the meaning.

    So next time I’m in a traffic jam…

  • I must say I’m a deeply philosophical person and though this is first time I’m coming across this quote it’s something I’ve always lived by. For example, when two people take different directions in an arguement, I take it that they are simply stating their points of view based on their perception of the subject matter. This way I hadly argue with any one knowing they have right to their own perception. We all mustn’t see things from the same angle. Kind of like the seven blind men and the elephant story!

    Thanks for a great post and insightful commentaries.

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