Thursday, November 10, 2016

Macrobiotic Mindset: Self-Responsibility

By Frontispiece drawn by “Sonnem.” (? hard to read, left bottom corner) and engraved by “MB” (bottom right corner). Image scanned by the John Adams Library at the Boston Public Library. Image slightly improved by Aristeas. -, Public Domain,
Epictetus was born a slave in the Roman Empire about 55 A.D..  He discovered a passion for philosophy in youth, and he got permission from his owner to study Stoic philosophy under the master Gaius Musonius Rufus.  He obtained liberation from slavery after the cruel, tyrannical Roman emperor Nero died in 63 A.D..

Some time after this, Epictetus began to teach philosophy.  In 93 A.D. the emperor Domitian banned philosophers from Rome, so Epictetus moved to Greece where he established a school of Stoic philosophy.  One of his students was Marcus Aurelius, who went on to become the emperor of Rome.  Though born a “slave” he made himself into a great man, remembered and revered to this day, by taking control of himself, accepting and yet rising above his accidental circumstances.

Epictetus taught that if you are unhappy, it is your own fault.  He is reported to have said:
"To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete."
Blaming others makes you a slave to things beyond your control.  Epictetus emphasized that slavery of the soul consists of trying to control things outside oneself, but failing to control things that are within one's own power:
"That alone is in our power, which is our own work; and in this class are our opinions, impulses, desires, and aversions. What, on the contrary, is not in our power, are our bodies, possessions, glory, and power. Any delusion on this point leads to the greatest errors, misfortunes, and troubles, and to the slavery of the soul." 
This world is full of beauty and opportunity.  If you are not happy, if you have not attained your potential, it is your own fault.  Self-responsibility is a key practice of macrobiotic mindset, necessary to self-mastery, freedom and greatness of the soul.  You can liberate yourself from slavery by taking responsibility for your thoughts, words, and deeds.  Easier said than done, but possible and worth more than you can imagine. 

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