TSJ Interlude - 37th Birthday Reflections: On the Allegory of the Soldier


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Epictetus – Enchiridion Chapter 17
Remember that you are an actor in a play of such a kind as the playwright chooses: short, if he wants it short, long if he wants it long. If he wants you to play the part of a beggar, play even this part well; and so also for the parts of a disabled person, an administrator, or a private individual. For this is your business, to play well the part you are given; but choosing it belongs to Another.

Epictetus – Discourses 3.24
Do you not know that life is a soldier's service? One man must keep guard, another go out to reconnoiter, another take the field. It is not possible for all to stay where they are, nor is it better so. But you neglect to fulfil the orders of the general and complain, when some severe order is laid upon you; you do not understand to what a pitiful state you are bringing the army so far as in you lies; you do not see that if all follow your example there will be no one to dig a trench, or raise a palisade, no one to keep night watch or fight in the field, but everyone will seem an unserviceable soldier ... So too it is in the world; each man's life is a campaign, and a long and varied one. It is for you to play the soldier's part – do everything at the General's bidding, divining His wishes, if it be possible.
Seneca – On Tranquility
… however insulated a man keeps his leisure, he must still be willing to be of service to individuals and to mankind by his intelligence, his voice, his counsel. The man who brings candidates forward, defends the accused, votes on war and peace, is not the only one who serves the state; he who exhorts the youth, who, when good preceptors are so rare, imbues their minds with virtue, who seizes them as they race for money and luxury and holds them back, slowing them down, at least, if nothing else – he, too, is working for the community, albeit in a private station. Is the judge in the aliens' or citizens' court of arbitration performing a higher service when he delivers his assistant's verdict to suitors than the man who defines justice, piety, patience, fortitude, contempt of death, knowledge of God, and shows what a safe and easy asset a good conscience is? If, then, you bestow the time you abstract from public business upon study, you will not be deserting or shirking your duty. The man on the firing line, posted on the right wing or left, is not the only soldier in the army; the guard at the gates (a less dangerous but certainly not an idle function), the picket on watch, the keeper of the armory also serve, and though their duties are bloodless they still count as soldiers.
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Letters from a Stoic Master (Seneca)
The Discourses of Epictetus
The Enchiridion (Handbook) of Epictetus
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