I read Ryan Holliday’s The Daily Stoic [US] [JP] for each day’s entry. I write them in my daily journal (more often than not).

The 14 June account confused and confounded me:

Every event has two handles – one by which it can be carried, and one by which it can’t. If your brother does you wrong, don’t grab it by his wrongdoing, because this is the handle incapable of lifting it. Instead, use the other – that he is your brother, that you were raised together, and then you will have hold of the handle that carries.

(Via Holliday’s translation of Epictetus, Enchiridion [US] [JP], 43)

I understand the overall moral in Epictetus’ message but the handle metaphor makes no sense. Events don’t have handles. If they do, then why two with one useless handle? Who is making these handles?

The further description from Holliday’s book failed to enrich:

The famous journalist William Seabrook suffered from such debilitating alcoholism that in 1933 he committed himself to an insane asylum, which was then the only place to get treatment for addiction. In his memoir, Asylum, he tells the story of the struggle to turn his life around inside the facility. At first, he stuck to his addict way of thinking—and as a result, he was an outsider, constantly getting in trouble and rebelling against the staff. He made almost no progress and was on the verge of being asked to leave.

Then one day this very quote from Epictetus—about everything having two handles—occurred to him. “I took hold now by the other handle,” he related later, “and carried on.” He actually began to have a good time there. He focused on his recovery with real enthusiasm. “I suddenly found it wonderful, strange, and beautiful, to be sober. … It was as if a veil, or scum, or film had been stripped from all things visual and auditory.” It’s an experience shared by many addicts when they finally stop doing things their way and actually open themselves to the perspectives and wisdom and lessons of those who have gone before them.

There is no promise that trying things this way—of grabbing the different handle—will have such momentous results for you. But why continue to lift by the handle that hasn’t worked?

Again, this makes no sense to me. I get the moral – there’s an easy way and a hard way; embracing opportunity instead of fighting to hold on to cherished opinions (paraphrased from a quote of Seng-ts’an I saw somewhere) – but “the handle” still threw me. Off I went to reference another translation to see if this metaphor was poorly conveyed.

I checked out The Enchiridion Translated by Elizabeth Carter, made available by MIT.

Everything has two handles, the one by which it may be carried, the other by which it cannot. If your brother acts unjustly, don’t lay hold on the action by the handle of his injustice, for by that it cannot be carried; but by the opposite, that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you; and thus you will lay hold on it, as it is to be carried.

This is, to me, a subtly better version. I still don’t fully appreciate the handle metaphor. It remains awkward. “There are two sides to every coin.” “Every cloud has its silver lining.” Something about swords or cheeks or keepers or better angels or walking in shoes all come close to the idea here.

One more check, this time the copy on Project Gutenberg:

Everything has two handles: one by which it may be borne, another by which it cannot. If your brother acts unjustly, do not lay hold on the affair by the handle of his injustice, for by that it cannot be borne, but rather by the opposite—that he is your brother, that he was brought up with you; and thus you will lay hold on it as it is to be borne.

These are all variations on a theme. I remain unable to grasp this.

Who is making handles that can’t be used to carry? Is there supposed to be both a “just” and “unjust” handle to all things? If so, how are they distinguished? Can there be a third or more, like “practical but compromised” and “pragmatic but ineffective”?

Taking the constructs of the brother and the addict and bringing them together, I can love him for the fact that he is my brother and we grew up together and I know his better side. But as he is an addict, would I do my brother or myself any good by metaphorically “grabbing the other handle”? If your brother, actual or symbolic, isn’t an addict or similar but you and he are otherwise in conflict, that’s where I think this comes into play.

I think. Maybe. I don’t know.

After all of this I still don’t get Epictetus’ handle metaphor. Would someone care to help illuminate me?

Meanwhile I’m thinking about reaching out to my erstwhile prodigal brother. He’s not an addict or anything. He’s just a dick.

Stoic movie review: RBG – How to Be a Stoic:

Now, why do I think of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a Stoic role model, and have included the documentary about her in my Stoic movie reviews? Three reasons, all of them explored in the film. First off, and most obviously, she embodies at least three of the Stoic virtues: courage, justice, and temperance. The above biographical sketch should leave no doubts about her commitment to social justice, in a sense that is aligned with the Stoic conception of it, and which unfortunately is easily forgotten by a number of self-professing modern Stoics: we are all human beings, members of the human cosmopolis, to be treated fairly and equally. But she also clearly showed plenty of courage, standing up for the right thing to do, both in terms of her own professional career and on behalf of millions of women, for many decades. She did all this in the right major, rarely if ever departing from a no-nonsense approach that would calibrate her reactions to the problem at hand, thus practicing the virtue of temperance. (I cannot comment on her practical wisdom, as that one is a virtue that is usually deployed only by people who consciously think of themselves as Stoics.)

Second, her firm rejection of anger as a useful emotion. The documentary mentions this several times, adding that she inherited the attitude from her mother. Anger, as Seneca puts it, is temporary madness, and not conducive to act reasonably, even when it may be justified by an injustice. RBG has suffered plenty of personal injustices, and has fought on behalf of many others treated unjustly, throughout her life. And yet she has managed to maintain her calm in the midst of plenty of storms, a most Stoic trait.

Finally, and most surprisingly, her apparently genuine friendship with the now deceased Justice Antonin Scalia. Despite their diametrically opposite positions on all sorts of social issues, they were warm toward each other, went on vacation trips together, and made several joint public appearances. I have to admit that I probably would not have the fortitude to stomach a friendship with a person like Scalia, who I found to be despicable. But that’s because I’m not a sage, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a better Stoic than I am. Her behavior toward Scalia embodies the difficult to internalize Stoic notion that nobody does evil on purpose, but only because they are misguided. As Marcus says:

“They are certainly moved toward things because they suppose them to be suitable to their nature and profitable to them. ‘But it is not so.’ Teach them then, and show them without being angry.” (Meditations VI.27)

(Via How To Be A Stoic)

There certainly has been a push lately around Justice Ginsburg. I like the story of her and the late Justice Scalia. Regardless of the political perspectives each held they could have not just an honorable debate but a genuine friendship.

Figuring Out ‘The Good Life’

The idea of the “good life” is a core idea of philosophy, often described with a single Greek word, eudaimonia (there’s your new word for the day, most likely). It simply means aiming for the highest human good – the good life, in other words.

Those pictures, and the others that were shared, all point to rather different day to day lives, even though they all have a few things in common. Rather than rattle on a lot about what elements would make up my idea of the good life, I was actually more interested in what elements are commonly found in the ideas of the good life that lots of people shared with me, so I thought about those stories and asked a few others what they thought the “good life” was.

(Via The Simple Dollar)

The article touches on many concepts that, unsurprisingly, ancient philosophers also documented. What I appreciate is Trent’s typically through tie back to the site’s themes about personal finance.

I’m bookmarking, PDFing to my Kindle, and then taking some time to really dig into this and what it can mean for me.

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From null program:

This week I made a mistake that ultimately enlightened me about …

A better opening to a post or journal entry I cannot imagine.

We all make mistakes. How many mistakes do we see & use as an opportunity?

I often reflect back on a quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune [US] [JP] (emphasis mine):

… his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It’s shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult … every experience carries its lesson.

The entire Scientific Method is predicated on the idea of making mistakes and learning from them.

Example: I let myself get sucked into something this morning that looked like a footstool requiring my deep attention and action. By the end of the day the footstool turned out to be one foot of an elephant that required nothing more of me than a reassuring pat. Complaining, which hadn’t seriously entered my mind until writing this post, would be useless to the elephant and to me.

I learned a lot about the elephant in a very short amount of time. When I was spun up trying to tend to the footstool I was interacting with people I didn’t usually communicate. I received an intense education in something I used to know well but with which I didn’t stay current. I saw how some new people, now in my orbit, work and got an insight into their thinking. These are skilled, talented people I will do well to know better. And I got to work with a few folks I know, enjoy working with, and didn’t know were in town.

I thought about what I should do when I get a similar request, which happens frequently enough that I should have a process for when it occurs yet happens infrequently enough that I easily pushed down in my priority list.

Meanwhile, I made at least a dozen or more other mistakes in the same 12 hours. I hope to address them, the ones over which I have control, Real Soon Now.

One has only so many hours in the day to make mistakes and learn from them.

Ikigai is the Japanese concept of “the reason for being”. Finding it requires a deep and lengthy search of self, or at least that’s what a tweet from Victoria van Eyk said in June of 2017. Trent Hamm over at The Simple Dollar recently wrote a fantastic article about ikigai. Using the Concept of Ikigai to Find Financial, Personal, and Professional Fulfillment:

… there are a few main takeaways that you should take home from this post. Ikigai is a pretty attractive concept for life fulfillment as it touches on financial, personal, and professional fulfillment. It’s simply the area where the things you love to do, the things you’re good at, the things that help the world, and the things you’re paid for overlap. Financial instability forces you to prioritize “the things you’re paid for” and that often causes you to leave other factors behind. Many people wind up where I was, in the “profession” area (where the things you’re good at overlap the things you’re paid for) and missing out on things that you love and things that are changing the world, and that’s often a recipe for unhappiness. Financial stability de-emphasizes “the things you’re paid for” and financial independence removes that factor entirely. This lets you focus more and more on the things you love, the things you’re good at, and the things that change the world, which all provide a meaning and value in your life that’s far beyond what money can provide. In other words, if you view ikigai as a great place to be, then it’s a call to get your finances in order. The better your finances are, the easier it is to find a life situation where you can achieve that kind of deep fulfillment in whatever it is you choose to do.

(Via The Simple Dollar)

I read the same source article, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life Might Just Help You Live a More Fulfilling Life, after I saw the concept in detail for the first time in this Tokyo Weekender post. The article, How to Find Your Ikigai – Your Reason for Being, took me down something of a rabbit hole. I picked up two Kindle books which I plan to review here.

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