Causing me to look up ‘Epicureanism’
Lisa Williams, “In Praise of Fluff“:
I seem to spend a lot of time at journalism conferences defending cat pictures.
I believe in fluff.
Happiness, delight, and pleasure — not in a far off future, but right now, today — became much more important to me. I went from being a Stoic to being an Epicurean.
And I thought, If heaven on earth is the only heaven we’re going to get, then we’d better get busy making it.
(Via Scott Rosenberg, via Amy Gahran, on the tweeterwebs.)
Yes, maybe it is time also for me to live for today and embrace my essential fluffiness.
I had to brush up on my knowledge of Epicureanism at Fluffipedia:
Epicurus believed that pleasure is the greatest good. But the way to attain pleasure was to live modestly and to gain knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one’s desires. This led one to attain a state of tranquility (ataraxia) and freedom from fear, as well as absence of bodily pain (aponia). The combination of these two states is supposed to constitute happiness in its highest form. Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism, insofar as it declares pleasure as the sole intrinsic good, its conception of absence of pain as the greatest pleasure and its advocacy of a simple life make it different from “hedonism” as it is commonly understood.
That works for me — I think I’m already an advocate of simple pleasures and a simple life, with the occasional trip to Hawaii or Disney World thrown in.
I’ve dabbled in Stoicism by reading (and liking) Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. (I have this Gregory Hays translation.)
Lots of good things to think about there, although it has given me a certain, “What’s the point?” perspective. Not that life isn’t worth living, but it tempers some of my grand ambitions. (Or maybe that’s just me getting older and even lazier.) There are passages like this:
People who are excited by posthumous fame forget that the people who remember them will soon die too. And those after them in turn. Until their memory, passed from one to another like a candle flame, gutters and goes out.
But suppose that those who remembered you were immortal and your memory undying. What good would it do you? And I don’t just mean when you’re dead, but in your own lifetime. What use is praise, except to make your lifestyle a little more comfortable?
You’re out of step—neglecting the gifts of nature to hand on someone’s words in the future.
I guess Epicurus would say, “Yay! More comfortable is good.”
But it makes me think that other than trying to enjoy the moment as much as possible, what’s the point in all of the striving for status? All the empire building? Our lives are more comfortable in many ways, but at the cost of so much stressful, anxious, dreary, tedious work. And then we’ll be dead, and then, what does it matter the achievements?
Maybe this Marcus guy was running a scam, though. We’re still talking about him a couple of thousand years later. Maybe it’s easy to say fame doesn’t matter when you’re the Roman Emperor. But I suppose he’ll continue to argue, “I’m dead. Who cares?”
The last sentence in that quote is marked as an uncertain reconstruction/translation in my book, but it ties back to this idea of living for today versus some uncertain or illusory future “reward.”
With this blog I have transient times of finally trying to get words down on the page, but I always retreat, maybe because I’m unsatisfied that I’m not offering great literature and wisdom. Or maybe because I’m lazy. Or afraid.
I should remember:
If an action or utterance is appropriate, then it’s appropriate for you. Don’t be put off by other people’s comments and criticism. If it’s right to say or do it, then it’s the right thing for you to do or say.
We’ll see. It’s a lot of work, even if it’s only fluff, and I have the pleasures of the day to attend to.
Do what nature demands. Get a move on—if you have it in you—and don’t worry whether anyone will give you credit for it. And don’t go expecting Plato’s Republic; be satisfied with even the smallest progress, and treat the outcome of it all as unimportant.