Professor Massimo Pigliucci of CUNY-City College hosts a podcast called Stoic Meditations. The episodes are really short. I tend to hit play; and it would end in a blink of an eye. A bit of a criticism for the professor: The audio quality or perhaps the way it is delivered results in a slightly muffled audio that is sometimes difficult to follow and goes by very quickly. It is, after-all, only 2-minute long.
That said, the latest episode caught my attention and had me replaying the episode ten million times. It is about Epictetus’s discourses, Book 3, Chapter XXIV.
“… when your imagination (which is not in your control) bites deep into your soul, struggle against it with your reason, fight it down, suffer it not to grow strong nor to advance the next step, calling up at pleasure what pictures it will. If you are in Gyara do not imagine your way of life in Rome, and the great delights you enjoyed when you lived there and that you would enjoy on your return. No, make your one effort there, to live a brave life in Gyara, as one who lives in Gyara should; and if you are in Rome do not imagine life in Athens, but make life in Rome your one study.”Epictetus
Live fully, here and now. Make your effort to live a great life–here and now. Essentially, be mindful and live this moment now to the fullest, without fantasizing another moment or wishing to be in a different situation. Epictetus said “live a brave life in Gyara.” Bravery is lost in the modern world, really. Let me update it and rephrase it as a great life. You are welcome.
What about Gyara? What is in Gyara? It sounds bad, at least less desirable than Rome. Turns out, Gyara, or Gyaros, is a Greek island that served as a place of exile in the early Roman empire (Wikipedia, accessed on July 16, 2020). Probably bad.
Prof. Pigliucci also emphasized that this concept is applicable to our experience with Covid-19 (and all the other issues we are facing in the world). I can’t agree more. Thank you, Prof. Pigliucci, for reviving and bringing Epictetus’s message to us now. Very timely.