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 🙂