I just finished going again over book II of Epictetus’ Discourses, which means that my personal database of Stoic quotes for meditation has been properly updated. Here I’d like to highlight a few quotes from section 22 of the second volume, entitled “Of love and friendship.” As usual, Epictetus’ wisdom comes through loud and clear.
“If someone is incapable of distinguishing good things from bad and neutral things from either – well, how could such a person be capable of love? The power to love, then, belongs only to the wise man.
You’re subject to sorrow, fear, jealousy, anger and inconsistency. That’s the real reason you should admit that you are not wise.
No doubt you have seen dogs playing with, and fawning before, each other, and thought, ‘Nothing could be friendlier.’ But just throw some meat in the middle, and then you’ll know what friendship amounts to.
Paris was Menelaus’ guest, and anyone who saw how well they treated each other would have laughed at anyone who said they weren’t friends. But between the two a bit of temptation was thrown in the form of a beautiful woman, and over that there arose war.
Just ask whether they put their self-interest in externals or in moral choice. If it’s in externals, you cannot call them friends, any more than you can call them trustworthy, consistent, courageous or free.
For where else is friendship found if not with fairness, reliability and respect for virtue only?
[Treat] unenlightened souls with sympathy and indulgence, remembering that they are ignorant or mistaken about what’s most important. Never be harsh, remember Plato’s dictum: ‘Every soul is deprived of the truth against its will.’
If you don’t get rid of these attitudes, however, you may do all the things friends typically do together, like drink, board, and travel, you can even have the same ancestry – but so can snakes.”