“Just as we see on the stage, a tragic actor who has trained his voice well can play the roles of Creon [a king] or Telephus [a hero in beggar’s rags] equally well… he will portray both the handmaid and the lady with the same artistry, and the director of the drama will demand that he play his part properly whichever mask he wears. Thus God and fortune provide us, as if with masks, with lives in the great drama of the cosmos; one life is neither better nor worse than another, and each must use his own as he is able.”
(The sentiment resembles several passages in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. But it’s actually drawn from an admirer and imitator of Plutarch from the later centuries of the Roman Empire – Synesius of Cyrene, who was a student of Hypatia of Alexandria.)
Your “role” in life is predetermined in so many ways. You were born in New South Wales, not Texas; a man, not a woman; into the middle class, not wealth or poverty. Even many of your inclinations were already pre-chosen for you: you were good at numbers, not words; you liked debate club, not computer science.
Acting is a craft. So is living life. We are judged, both by God and, more often than not, by other people, not on the quality of the “role” we got, but on how well we play it.
Our most important challenge is to be good at who we are. For this, we all use the same set of tools: courage, moderation, wisdom, and justice.
As Synesius puts it, “The serious man is able to live his life well anywhere, whether playing the part of the pauper or the prince.”