Daily Touch of Inspirations

November 8th: Actors in play

Ryan Holiday, The 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

Remember that you are an actor in a play, playing character according to the will of the playwright — if a short play, then it's short; if long, long. If he wishes you to play the beggar, play even that role well, just as you would if it were a cripple, a honcho, or an everyday person. For this is your duty, to perform well the character assigned you. That selection belongs to another. — Epictetus, Enchiridion, 17

Marcus Aurelius didn't want to be emperor. He wasn't a politician who sought office, and he wasn't a true heir to the throne. As far as we can tell from his letter and from history, what he really wanted was to be a philosopher. But the powerful elite in Rome, including the emperor Hadrian, saw something in him. Groomed for power, Marcus was adopted and put in line for the throne because they knew he could handle it. Meanwhile, Epictetus lived much of his life as a slave and was persecuted for his philosophical teachings. Both did quite a lot with the roles they were assigned.

Our station in life can be as random as a roll of the dice. Some of us are born into privilege, others into adversity. Sometimes we're given exactly the opportunities we want. At other times we're given a lucky break, but to us it feels like a burden.

The Stoics remind us that whatever happens to us today or over the course of our lives, wherever we fall on the intellectual, social, or physical spectra, our job is not to complain or bemoan our plight but to do the best we can to accept it and fulfill it. Is there still room for flexibility or ambition? Of course! The history of the stage is littered with stories of bit parts that turned into starring roles and indelible characters that were expanded in future adaptations. But even this begins with acceptance and understanding — and a desire to excel at what we have been assigned.

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

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