Avoid Adapting Other People's Negative Views
after Epictetus To gaze upon the fatal without commiserating gloom: what every friend should be— not one who rends her coat of doom nor one who lets her ankle rankle nor her dogged love to the hounds. Be the cat in catastrophe who survives eight more dives. Though in the clutch of damage a dame must age, in the crazy-quilt of guilt it was never your fault. In the company of morose always pull out the rose.
"'Avoid Adapting Other People's Negative Views' is one of the final poems in a 24-poem series entitled A Manual for Living, based on the Stoic philosopher Epictetus's posthumous self-help guide of the same name. The title is taken from Sharon Lebell's contemporary demotic translation. This particular poem exhibits a magical faith in language, drawing on the word game I used to play as a child of making words out of the letters of other words. By peering in and listening carefully enough to the constituent letters of words, other words arise, which this poem uses as clues for how to live."