November 7, 2018

What matters most is what sort of person you are becoming, what sort of life you are living.” —Epictetus

“A rubber band once stretched,” wrote an unknown author, “never returns to its original size; it’s always a little longer.” The same is true for you and me. Once we stretch our minds, we never return to the same mental person we were; we’ve grown.

One way to stretch your mind is through reading. Books lay the world of knowledge at the feet of the reader. There are books not worth reading, and some are more difficult to read and understand than others.

Some historical writings, when written were easily understood, but today are hard to master. Any of Shakespeare’s poems are difficult for most of us to read and understand. Then there is Beowulf—I never understood Old English nor grasped the significance of this Scandinavian Warrior and his battle against the monster Grendel. But then, I am the one on trial, not Beowulf.

Some historical writings were practical and understood when written and are still useful and understood today. Some months ago I came across such a book, “The Art of Living (A New Interpretation by Sharon Lebell). The book reveals the wisdom and sayings of Epictetus a Greek Stoic philosopher (A.D. 55–A.D. 135). Epictetus championed these thoughts: 

  • “See things for what they are. When something happens, the only thing within your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it. Things and people are not what we wish them to be or what they seem to be. They are what they are.”
  • “Events don’t hurt us, but our views of them can. It is our attitude and reactions that give us trouble. We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them. Discriminate between the events and your interpretation.”
  • “Avoid adopting other people’s negative views. Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.” Avoid negative thinking individuals.
  • “All advantages have their price. You will never earn the same rewards as others without employing the same methods and investment of time as they do.” (Compare to The Law of Causality and The Law of Cause and Effect— for every effect, there is a cause).
  • “Stay the course, in good weather and bad. Regardless of what is going on around you, make the best of what is in your power, and take the rest as it occurs.”
  • “Every habit and faculty are preserved and increased by its corresponding actions. The habit of walking makes us better walkers.” The habit of praying makes us better prayers. The practice of reading makes us better readers. Good habits are hard to break; so are bad ones.

The more we open our minds to the writings, teachings, and beliefs of the Scripture, the more we grow as a Christian. Paul gives evidence for lifelong learning in his second letter to Timothy, The Apostle writes, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”