Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Tuesday, Epicurus and the simple life

This is becoming quite confusing,  my blog still thinks that it's a day or so later...  but in fact it is still Tuesday in Santa Cruz and it's the last day before I will be "on duty" babysitting, full time.

I have been to Bookshop Santa Cruz,  and I couldn't find anything about Epicurus, who I'd been googling,  though not able to find his own writings. The reason that I'd wanted to read his own writing was that references to him sound really interesting.  From Wikipedia....
"For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia, peace and freedom from fear, and "aponia", the absence of pain, and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and bad, that death is the end of the body and the soul and should therefore not be feared, that the gods do not reward or punish humans, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space."  
 He founded a school in Lampsacus before returning to Athens in 306 BCE. There he founded The Garden, a school named for the garden he owned about halfway between the Stoa and the Academy that served as the school's meeting place."
"His school was the first of the ancient Greek philosophical schools to admit women as a rule rather than an exception"    Apparently his school also admitted slaves, male and female.  
Another little bit of information that I read about Epicurus is that he believed that being content with a simple life, rather than wanting more and more material possessions was better for one's happiness and health.  
This philosopher sounded interesting to me,  so I have been looking for a book that might tell more about him.  Well,  Bookshop Santa cruz didn't have anything.
Today I went to the "Literary Guillotine" and I found what I was looking for...  all for about $15.

Apparently Epicurus wrote "voluminously" during his lfe,  but this small book (less than 100 pages) is all that remains of his letters and "doctrines" on many subjects.  Happiness is the freedom from pain, and particularly the pain caused by unfulfilled desires, and, on happiness, he said that the truly wise man is he who can be content, and therefore happy, with little, and that being surrounded by a community of friends is very important for well-being. And this, despite the reputation that later followers had for self-centred hedonism!     On reading translations from what little remains of his own writings, I imagine that he had more in common with the modern ideas of "voluntary simplicity" than some of the self indulgence of modern times, and that he might well have criticised modern advertising that causes people to desire more and more "stuff."   I don't suppose he could have forseen the epidemic of depression that exists now,  but perhaps a little more Epicurian philosophy might be useful.

This second book describes much of the same writings, but includes more detail about his scientific theories... he wrote about an infinite universe made up of atoms of different kinds,  and of man's place in it as a part of the system, rather than as a special species that has dominion over "creation."

It has been interesting to read from Epicurus and to wonder how his garden might have looked.  "In the year 311 BC (at about 30 years old) he purchased a house in Athens where he lived until the age of about 70.   It was called "The Garden"  and while he didn't teach in a formal way, he and his followers lived quietly and without luxury, seeking the happiness that came from the simple life."  
I have visions of a vegetable garden with herbs, flowers and all of the necessary food plants for a life without supermarkets or packaged processed food.  Sounds pretty good to me.

Louise also did some last minute errands while Fiona was at school, and then the three of us went on to the local brewery for dinner...  all good!
The coaster...

... and the other side....

... and tonight I am ready for bed early.
By this time tomorrow night, Louise should be on her way to the Grand Canyon where she'll join the rafting crew for the remainder of the trip.  Fiona and I will "hold the fort" here, so to speak!


John L said...

That light green printing is hard to read - but I did it. Almost had to go and look for the specs though.

Jane said...

I fixed it.