3 plus 1 epigrams to base your life upon.

Ancient greek ruins

Epigram, witticism, quip, aphorism, bon mot, motto, saying, pithy saying, one-liner, maxim, quote. No matter how you may call them, short, witty phrases of distilled wisdom have an uncanny charm almost no one can resist — not excluding myself.

Although, it is true, all too often popular quotes are just ’empty words,’ with little if no meaning at all; just a shallow exercise in rhetoric and popular speaking, with the only intent to impress or provoke. But we are not going to busy ourselves with these.

On the contrary all four epigrams of this article are of a serious nature, with deep consequences, and all share a common root.

Heraclitus, Greek philosopher.

Character is fate


This pithy saying by one of the most ‘difficult’ Greek philosophers, Heraclitus (even Socrates used to call him ‘dark’), is extremely profound and deep. In other words, it says that what people call ‘fate’ is just the consequence of our actions, which are determined by our character.

It leaves little if any room for metaphysical explanations. Actually, it puts a heavy weight on our shoulders, since we, i.e. out characters, are responsible for every thing we may or may not do.

On the other hand it is a liberating principle. If our character determines our fate in life, then it is in our power to shape that fate in any way we please.

Build a strong, full character, and life will smile at you.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor.

Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.

Marcus Aurelius

All too often people need to be reminded of the fact, that speaking of a thing (not to say arguing about it) is not the same as doing the damn thing.

Philosophising is different than living philosophically. Working day and night toward a vision is different than daydreaming about living as having already achieved a life goal.

Speaking of your grand business idea that will disrupt countless of markets and make you a billionaire is different than living on minimum costs and investing your time, money and strength on making that idea a reality.

In terms of efficiency, noisy meetings at work remain dead silent.

The antithetical couples can go on for ever.

Step away from empty arguments, go out in the field, try your best and deliver the best outcome.

Actions speak louder than words.

Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha.

All component things in the world are ever changing, illusory and transient. Work hard to gain your own salvation.

Siddhārtha Gautama, the Buddha

What makes this advice so impressive is that it comes from the mouth of a spiritual/religious master. These are the final words Gautama Buddha addressed to his disciples before passing into nirvana for ever after.

Instead of words of sympathy or giving empty hopes, the Buddha spoke, one last time, the truth.

There is no salvation outside of us. There is no force in the universe that will come to our aid, if we do not help ourselves.

We have to work hard if we want to better our lot in life, if we want to build a beautiful physique, if we want to make our first million, if we want to gain salvation, no matter what this ‘salvation’ represents for us.

If you follow a daily routine, do affirmations or visualisations, this epigram is perfect to conclude your ritual with, by reminding to your self that, at the end of the day, you have to rely upon your own strengths and skills.

Venerable Buddha was indeed a sublime and enlightened teacher of humanity.

Apollo, Greek god of light, music and prophecy.

You are.

Apollo on Delphi

On the walls of the Apollo temple in Delphi, were inscribed 147 aphorisms or moral principles, known as ‘the Delphic maxims,’ attributed either to Apollo himself or to the Seven Sages of Greece. The most famous of these maxims is ‘know thyself.’

However, on the tympanum of the temple (the triangular area in the front face of the roof of a Greek temple) a large ‘E’ was placed, for every one wishing to enter the temple to see.

The meaning of this ‘E’ has given rise to a lot of controversy, since antiquity. There is no final decision about what it meant and why it was hanging there.

The only sure thing is that it was called the ‘E of the Delphi,’ were ‘E’ was pronounced ee, like the English letter E.

Now, in Greek, the verb ‘you are’ is «εἶ», pronounced also like ee.

Therefore the ‘E of the Delphi’ was the answer of the god Apollo to every one coming to the temple to consult the oracle regarding his future.

“You are enough,” Apollo said even before the poor soul entered his temple. “You do not need me, or any other god, or any supernatural entity, force or notion for that matter. You are enough. Go and make your own fate.”

With the utmost simplicity and leaving no margin for misconceptions, the answer of Apollo is to the point.

We are what we make ourselves to be.

Photo credits: Yusuf Dündar on Unsplash.

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