Examining Epictetus #13: Becoming Beautiful

Question #1: What makes a human being beautiful?

Is it the filter on your Instagram picture? Is it the cosmetics, the surgeries, the nips, tucks, or lifts? Those things may change perception aligning you closer to society’s beliefs of what is beautiful. But does this really make you a beautiful human being? And in the end, will time not eventually prevail? Our outer shell is going to deteriorate. It is going to succumb to the ravages of nature. Our bodies are destined to return to the earth.

We might find attraction in pretty things, but pretty things do not last. And they do not make a human being beautiful.

Question #2: Shouldn’t it be the excellence of a human being?

If you cultivate the spirit and the soul, it will not deteriorate. Unlike the body, it will last forever. How do you make this excellent? Not through riches, fame, or the number of social media followers. No. If we would be excellent, then we must be good. We must find virtue. Only through wisdom, discipline, justice, and courage can we attain unto excellence. Only through virtue can we truly have faith, hope, and love. This is what we must strive for. This will make us excellent human beings.

What then makes a man beautiful? Is it not the possession of the excellence of a man? And do you, then, if you wish to be beautiful, young man, labour at this, the acquisition of human excellence.

Epictetus, Discourses 3.1

Examining Epictetus #35: Memento Mori

One day, I will leave this body. Death will come, and there is no stopping it.

Time. Once it is lost, it is gone forever. As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Space I can recover. Time, never.”

Death cannot be cheated. Time cannot be recovered. It almost sounds inevitably depressing. Doesn’t it? But…

If I spend one good hour in a fruitful endeavor, would I mourn the passing of that hour? Of course not. The only hours I would regret would be the ones wasted in vain pursuits.

In a similar way, I should consider death. When my time comes, will I mourn a well-lived life? Absolutely not, for I made the best use of what I was given. Time doesn’t even matter here. Well-lived over ten years or a hundred is still well-lived. My only regret at death would be if I never really lived at all.

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Death is a part of life. Live well and there will not be a need to mourn when your journey comes to an end. Mourn not for others who have lived well and are also at an end. Rather, we should celebrate their life and wish them well on their next adventure. Our separation from them will indeed be sad, but such is life, and such is death. This we cannot prevent. All we can do is continue to live and walk our own journey.

I am not eternal, but a human being; a part of the whole, as an hour is of the day. Like an hour I must come and, like an hour, pass away. – Epictetus

Memento Mori. Translated from Latin, it means to remember death. This is not a morbid thing but rather a call to live the life you have been given.