Posted by: Emily | 20 January 2014

But I wish to be purple

This is one of my favorite bits of Greek philosophical literature. I too wish to be purple.

Διὰ τί; ὅτι σὺ σεαυτὸν ἡγῇ μίαν τινὰ εἶναι κρόκην τῶν ἐκ τοῦ χιτῶνος. τί οὖν; σὲ ἔδει φροντίζειν πῶς ἀνόμοιος ᾖς τοῖς ἄλλοις ἀνθρώποις, ὥσπερ οὐδ᾽ ἡ κρόκη πρὸς τὰς ἄλλας κρόκας θέλει τι ἔχειν ἐξαίρετον. ἐγὼ δὲ πορφύρα εἶναι βούλομαι, τὸ ὀλίγον ἐκεῖνο καὶ στιλπνὸν καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις αἴτιον τοῦ εὐπρεπῆ φαίνεσθαι καὶ καλά. τί οὖν μοι λέγεις ὅτι Ἐξομοιώθητι τοῖς πολλοῖς; καὶ πῶς ἔτι πορφύρα ἔσομαι;

Think of yourself as one thread in the cloth of a toga. One white thread is not distinguished from any other. And just so, you could live your life and be indistinguishable from everybody else. But I wish to be purple, a small bright-colored thread, which makes all the rest appear graceful and beautiful. Why should I make myself like everybody else? If I did, how would I still be purple?

From Epictetus’ Discourses, 1.17–18, my translation.


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