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Early one autumn morning before the sun had risen, I set out on a pre-dawn walk along the canal road, intent on keeping unwanted pounds at bay. I had my pedometer on my belt and planned to register four thousand steps, two miles, before breakfast. Sammy, my dark-grey Weimaraner dog, was anxiously anticipating our adventure beyond the locked gate. The moon was bright, bathing the road with an unearthly glow, revealing a familiar but shadowy setting. We passed the homestead of Mr. Montes, his chickens and dogs apparently fast asleep. Luckily, no skunks were in the vicinity, making it easy to enjoy the cool air and brisk exercise. As we came upon the crook in the road that signaled the half mile mark, Sammy ran off in pursuit of a big black bird that was flapping noisily in the underbrush. Even though I called him, he did not return. Hearing a yelp, I impulsively stepped off the trodden path directly into the darkness of the underbrush. Pushing past some brambles, I stepped into an eerie nothingness and commenced a slow-motion fall, like a solitary leaf falling from a tall tree. I fell through weeks, months, decades, and centuries, drifting through eons of history and oddly enough, finding the leisure to speculate on time, space, and man’s position in the universe. When my free fall finally concluded, I found myself standing on the edge of a crowd of people milling about in togas as if on a movie set for Julius Caesar. I was in a marketplace in broad daylight, surrounded by majestic public buildings constructed with towering columns and magnificent arches. The sight of the Coliseum and in the distance the gilded statue of Nero as tall as the Statue of Liberty convinced me that I was in ancient Rome. I walked about at will through that antique crowd as merchants sold their goods in open air stalls. I listened to people
Oblivious to the hustle of buying and selling. One of the listeners stood up and addressed the thin speaker. Instead. his bare feet were covered with thick calluses and the dust of the road. No one seemed to take notice of me in my odd clothing as I ambled here and there. complementing the unhurried pace of his speech. but when I speak to the people.” . His cloak. earthen jars of oil. why then.barter in Latin for flasks of wine. “If you wish to be a Stoic philosopher in order to win honors. they look upon me with pity because of my shabby toga. unlike most of the togas about him. Above his long grey beard. which articulated his views of proper conduct. What we seek is freedom from external distractions. poking among the blankets and even tasting one of the delicious purple grapes.” Epictetus looked at him for a long moment before finally speaking. then you will be disappointed. bolts of cotton cloth. His grey hair was cropped short in front but flowed down the sides covering his ears. But if warm clothing and good shoes will satisfy your quest for happiness. they do not honor me. “Epictetus. a group of serious men sat listening to speaker who was resting his weight against a fluted column. I have tried to follow your path to be a Stoic philosopher. Since he wore no shoes. making him look like a destitute circus clown. his long thin nose protruded with a bump in the middle. I found myself understanding their negotiations and even their wisecracks. had been mended often with patches of mismatched colors. Although my high school Latin had never been too sharp. while I regard their warm clothing and well-cobbled shoes with envy. His dark eyes were serene. learning how to amass enough silver coins to purchase the things you desire most. baskets of grapes. forsake this path and become a merchant’s assistant. and noisy geese tied with twine by the feet.
two thousand years into the future. indeed.” I assured him that such an undertaking would be a worthy one but that I had a more immediate concern. too. a Stoic philosopher. Levi pants. One leg was lame.” he commented. “Perhaps you wish to become one of us. a curiosity from some far outpost of the empire? What outlandish garments.The young man rose. “De gustibus non disputendem est. not only in distance but also in time. Socrates.” he replied regarding my Wolverine sweatshirt. steadying himself on a crutch.” I responded. He was pleased to know that his teachings were studied along with those of his own philosophical guru. looked at Epictetus for a regretful moment. “By Zeus. then turned his back and walked away. It was then that he spotted me and walked toward me. and Red Wing boots. “I wasn’t disputing your taste in garments. Let us walk about the marketplace. I remembered reading that it had been broken by his master when Epictetus was a slave. I told him that I was. I told him that our civilization beyond the western ocean was patterned on Greek culture and Roman law. Epictetus admonished the rest of his disciples to retreat to quiet places and decide if they. amazed at my fluency in Latin. “But why have you sought me out?” questioned Epictetus. “People in my time . and I will consider your qualifications. would be happier in quest of material goods rather than philosophical goods. what have we here. from a distant outpost.
” “Stranger.” I pointed out the various Romans scurrying around us. which causes them to have poor health. Epictetus. bread and circuses.” He limped on at a steady pace over the smooth cobblestones. and sugared treats of all descriptions. Keeping pace. and fruits. but in our era. fats. yes. “Look. probably from eating mostly grains. everyday. your generation has been reduced to slavery. eggs. especially when it comes to food. but we try. We are killing ourselves slowly with all these good foods. even poor people have assistance from the state that they may buy plenty of fattening food.” “How can that be a problem. Caesar provides the masses with what they want. “Obesity is a national problem for us.” he pronounced. your people are lean. strange fellow? The problem would be not having enough to eat. vegetables. panem et circenses. Tell me something that we can do to reduce our problem. no matter how good a master I happened to have. Your appetites have become your masters. We had everything we want. Epictetus. “Oh. the populace has daily access to meat. shopping for their daily needs. please don’t tell us that we have it coming. cheese. “Why. if what you speak is true. Here in Rome. we are lucky in that regard. We have more food than we could ever eat. I yearned for freedom.” he said exaggerating his .live in affluence. When I was a slave.” Epictetus surveyed me critically. I can see what you mean. I continued. The only fat people among us are the very rich who delight in gorging themselves in continuous feasting.” “Every excess provides its own vengeance.
but I prefer to be hungry rather than well fed and enslaved. Glancing around.” I tried to suck in my pot belly as we walked briskly past heaps of dried fish. As a freeman now. I still wanted to be free. Walking is good for body and soul.limp. Epictetus noticed. I snapped out of my reverie to find Sammy nudging my hand. I found myself off to one side of the canal road. The Roman marketplace was gone. then it was a good thing. Distract your clamorous appetites by doing what we are doing: walking. pondering the words of Epictetus and surprised to find that my pedometer had already registered four thousand steps. laughed. but figured that if the pedometer helped. whose dead eyes looked at me like a jury judging my past. If they do not get what they want. “Even though he gave me bread to eat everyday. I showed him my pedometer. While you are busy walking. which counted my steps to encourage me to walk farther. Then sun was rising. He was amused to discover that we would need such a gizmo to do what was the most natural thing in the world. I proceeded on my two-mile walk. “Your appetites are like spoiled children.” I told him that some of us were already following his advice. and continued. On a nearby tree a raven sat cawing loudly. we are more than a mouth attached to a stomach. even for a man with a limp. Mystified. James Gonzales 1485 words . Surely. but rather of seeing new and wonderful things which God has given us to delight our senses. they make a big fuss. you will not think of eating. I pass some days with an empty stomach. Just then I felt my hand being tugged roughly.
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