“Freedom and slavery, one is the name of virtue the other the name of vice; and both are acts of the will. But where there is no will, neither of them can affect things. No man is a slave who is free in his will.” – Epictetus
It is important to remember that Epictetus was born into slavery in Rome. When he writes about slavery he isn’t being figurative in his understanding of what slavery means. He knew first hand what it meant to be an actual slave.
For us, the meaning is figurative. We are at no risk of being physically enslaved but we are at risk of enslaving ourselves figuratively to external things. We are at risk to becoming figuratively enslaved to our emotions.
The biggest risk we take however, is that we might not have the will to experience anything. Instead of being figuratively enslaved by our emotions or external things outside of our control we end up going through life with no real interaction with the outside world. Worse than slaves we are sponges who might as well sit on our couches, watch television, and take our meals right off the coffee table.
So we take a risk, we aim for freedom full well understanding that if we can not develop the will to ignore external things outside of our control, if we can not learn to discipline our emotions, then we may find ourselves figuratively enslaved to these things. But more importantly, if we can. If we fight every day to get a little better, a little closer to our goal we might just get that one goal that makes it all worth while. Freedom.
Virtus Fortis Vocat