“How to be free? Is it a question or an exclamation, a political manifesto or a longing to go native, an aspiration for autonomy or the route to emancipation from bondage? This book presents an ancient Greek philosopher’s take on freedom—freedom construed as living in agreement with nature, owning and ruling oneself, becoming a world citizen, desiring always and only what you are assured of getting—and much more. Epictetus (AD 55-135), our author and guide to the Stoic life, was born a slave (his Greek name means ‘acquired’), and entered service as a slave in the household of Epaphroditus, a power broker in Nero’s Rome, and himself a freedman. By the time Epictetus publicly delivered his thoughts on freedom, he had enjoyed many years of manumission, but the experience of slavery left its mark on his philosophy through and through. The first lesson of the Encheiridion, his handbook guide to Stoicism, insists that everything that is truly our own doing is naturally free, unimpeded, and unconstrained.
Freedom, according to this notion, is neither legal status nor opportunity to move around at liberty. It is the mental orientation of persons who are impervious to frustration or disappointment because their wants and decisions depend on themselves and involve nothing that they cannot deliver to themselves.”
~ A.A. Long from How to Be Free
A.A. Long is professor emeritus of classics and affiliated professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.
He is also one of the world’s most respected scholars of Stoicism.
As per the inside flap, in this beautiful little (hand)book, he provides “splendid new translations and the original Greek on facing pages, a compelling introduction that sets Epictetus in context and describes the importance of Stoic freedom today, and an invaluable glossary of key words and concepts. The result is an unmatched introduction to this powerful method of managing emotions and handling life’s situations, from the most ordinary to the most demanding.“
There’s something magical about seeing the original Greek on the left page—which, Long tells us, is the same colloquial Greek also used in the New Testament. And, Long’s introduction to Epictetus and his role in Stoicism is fantastic as well.
If you’re a fan of Stoicism, I think you’ll love this book as much as I do. (Get a copy here.)
Of course, it’s packed with practical wisdom on how to be free and I’m excited to share some of my favorites we can apply to our lives TODAY, so let’s jump straight in!
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