Has somebody received more honour than you at a feast or in a greeting or in receiving advice? If these things are appropriate, you should be happy they happen to that person. If they are inappropriate, then don’t be bothered that they don’t happen to you. Remember that you cannot claim the same things if you don’t do the same things to get what is not in our control. For how can somebody get the same things as someone who visits a man’s door frequently if he doesn’t visit the door frequently? Or get the same as someone who escorts him if he doesn’t escort him? Or get the same as someone who praises him if he doesn’t praise him? You will be unjust and greedy if you want to take them as a gift instead of paying the price for which they are sold. But for what price are lettuces sold? A coin (obol), if it so happens. So if somebody pays the coin, he gets the lettuce. But if you don’t pay and don’t get it, do not think you have less than the person who gets the lettuce. Because like that person has the lettuce, you have the coin that you didn’t give away. It is exactly the same in the current case, if you are not invited to someone’s feast: you have not paid the host the price for which the meal is sold. He sells it for praise; he sells it for attention. Then give it to him, if the difference with the cost is profitable for you. But if you don’t want to pay the person and still get the things, then you are greedy and foolish. So don’t you have anything instead of the meal? You have received not praising the person that you didn’t want to praise and not facing his people at the door. — Epictetus
It just happened, I lived that quote.
A friend of mine, from high school, just got married. I wasn’t invited, I saw the precious wedding, packed with lots of friendly faces from back in the day, my friend smiling happily ever after as he danced with his now wife. Not mentioning Covid-19 of course, the party looked amazing, I would have like to go, but I wasn’t invited.
And it is true, as Epictetus mentions, I didn’t pay the price to be there. I can’t remember the last time I called him. I didn’t even knew he was getting married until recently by another friend. I didn’t called to say congrats or any of that. So naturally, he didn’t invite me.
I’m not terribly sad about the situation though. I decided to live someplace else and live a life away from his life. I’d be greedy if I’d found myself angry at him for not inviting me to his wedding, as I already mentioned, I didn’t pay the price. What I want to say, is, that, as much as I like him (we had really good times as kids) and I still like him, it doesn’t really hurt me (and it shouldn’t, at all) as much as say, a really dear friend of mine, or maybe my brother! or sister! not inviting me to their wedding. That would indeed be a price I’d regret not having paid.
Prices Worth Paying
“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” — Seneca
Life is composed by short games and long games that give you back sorts of ‘value’.
Short games, by their nature, pay you at the moment with comfort, they are easy and they have pleasurable consequences. You don’t really ‘pay’ anything when you play short games, you ‘borrow’ future, bigger rewards.
Long games, in contrast, need a payment at the moment. They don’t have immediate consequences, but they do have rewards, only repaid to you after several times of you paying for them.
I began this section talking about death because death serves the need of identifying what are the games that you’re most interested in playing. For myself, as I told you earlier, one game I find important is my ‘core relationships’ game. I want long term rewards with my brother, my sister, mom and dad, and a handful of friends and acquaintances.
Within your relationships games, you can play short games. For example, me not being invited to my friend’s wedding. It was far easier for me to forget about him and move on with my life. It would’ve been way harder to maintain a relationship I didn’t really wanted to care for. Can you imagine?
It is exactly the same in the current case, if you are not invited to someone’s feast: you have not paid the host the price for which the meal is sold. He sells it for praise; he sells it for attention. Then give it to him, if the difference with the cost is profitable for you.
But what about the important people in your life? People that you just want to be happy? Have you ever been too occupied to hang out with buddies that you do care for? And decided to stay at home playing video games instead? That’s a relationship short game, immediate reward, long term consequences and price to pay afterwards.
How about your family? Maybe you did the effort to make that family trip everyone’s so excited about? It was hard, it cost you money and time, but you feel great about it. Happy memories.
Time and Games
“Let each thing you would do, say, or intend, be like that of a dying person.” — Marcus Aurelius
Again, you don’t have all the time in the world. Even if you want to play every game in your life as a long game, you wouldn’t be able to do so.
Which is why you need to choose what and who are going to be your long games. Usually, the best long games fall into these three categories: knowledge, relationships, and finances.
Paying the price, in the moment, is not fun.
Say, myself, right now, writing this article. It is today a Sunday, I’m still in my Pijamas, I literally have nothing to do, and Zelda’s Breath of the Wild yells at me from the living room to go and play. It is devastatingly tempting to do so, but that would be falling for the short game.
This article may impact just a few people here and there, it certainly will not make me famous or a great writer. But it doesn’t stop being a small payment to a long game I want to win.
I’ve been writing this, and researching, and reading for almost three hours as well. I could’ve been playing other long games during that time, but there’s only so much willpower and hours in a day. Which is what I want you to notice.
What games are important to you? Are you playing short, or long?
“Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment and ask yourself: Am I afraid of death because I won’t be able to do this anymore?”— Marcus Aurelius
Remember, you’re not going to be here forever, and by the end of all these, it would be amazing to die grinning, knowing that you played the best games, in the best way, with the best people.
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