“Of all the things that are, some are good, others bad, and yet others indifferent. The good are virtues and all that share in them; the bad are the vices and all that indulge them; the indifferent lie in between virtue and vice and include wealth, health, life, death, pleasure, and pain.”EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.19.12b-13
I had a hard time understanding today’s quote. At first I thought it simply meant some things are good, some things are bad, and some things don’t matter. Well, duh. But thankfully today’s entry in The Daily Stoic helped me understand it more fully.
Essentially some things (and the people who seek them) are good and virtuous, and we should seek those. And other things are bad/vices and we should avoid those. That much is easy to understand.
But everything else falls in between, in a category that Epictetus calls ‘indifferent’, meaning that they don’t matter all that much and we shouldn’t concern ourselves too much about them. That includes things that feel really important to me! Like health and life and death. Whatevs to all those things, apparently.
The author of the book Ryan Holiday makes it clearer: we don’t have to obsess or panic or overthink (like everyone else) about these ‘indifferent’ things. We can be freer than most, by simply letting these things go. We can take a pass on most of the trouble in our lives by accepting that we don’t have control over life, death, health, pleasure, pain, or wealth. It’s the desiring of specific outcomes in these areas that is the problem. We eliminate that problem by letting them go, and effectively not caring about it.
In today’s chapter, Holiday says about these indifferent things, that “it’s not about avoidance or shunning, but rather not giving any possible outcome more power or preference than is appropriate.” Whatevs for the win, indeed.