The Daily Stoic for September 6th, “They Can Throw You In Chains, But…”.
“You can bind up my leg, but not even Zeus has the power to break my freedom of choice.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 1.1.23
No one can break you. No one can change who you are or make you do things you don’t want…
That’s what today’s meditation affirms. But is it true?
They Can Throw You In Chains, But…
I can’t truly believe today’s stoic words:
“someone can throw you in chains, but they don’t have the power to change who you are. Even under the worst torture and cruelties that humans can inflict on one another, our power over our own mind and our power to make our own decisions can’t be broken—only relinquished.”
Well, there may be examples of the contrary. I’m pretty sure these examples have been embellished by the popular culture, the history, and the patriotic novels. But human beings are weak. Everyone has a point at which they will break and give up.
Sure, you can have a strong mind and endure torture and deprivations. But eventually, there’s something external that can get to you. I think pretending the contrary is ridiculous. It’s nice to think that our minds can handle everything, like Paul Atreides going through the Gom Jabbar test in the Dune book series. If he was able to stand the pain, that would prove that he was the Kwisatz Haderach, the superior human being.
So I think it’s nice to think that we can endure everything by just desiring it, putting our whole willpower on it. We’d all love to think that’s true. My opinion? No, that’s not the case. Not at least for me.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “They Can Throw You In Chains, But…”, affirms something that’s pretty difficult to believe for me: that all of us can endure any external situation without breaking inside.