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