Quitting the Rat Race #1: Drawing Wisdom from Wise Philosophers: #1 Epicurus

Portrait of Epicurus. Pentelic marble, Roman c...

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Today we live  in a materialistic & acquisitive society where  people have status according to the car they drive, the size of their house, designer clothes, exotic holidays abroad, etc etc.

But is this honestly leading us towards any happiness??If purpose of life is to be happy, shouldn’t we at least pause from the maddening rat race & take a moment to reflect?

I have been lucky enough to quit the rat race at a ripe old age of 34 & am now enjoying my days idling, doing a little bit of house work & generally resting, idling , reading, thinking, blogging n mostly loafing during the day. This time abundance to me is the ultimate luxury, more valuable than money. n stuff that money can buy. Though I must admit that the decision was not a simple one to make. Time n again I have doubted my decision. Though I can afford not to work if I scale down my expenses a bit & rejig the lifestyle a bit, not working is a breeze for me…but still doubts kept pestering me, what if I come to regret this later? What if I get bored of all this after a few days? Not working when everyone else is climbing the so called career ladder of success can be a bit scary at times. During such times I have gone to books as usual, when in doubt read books & did a bit of research. I have gleaned wisdom from all possible kind of sources including a 1975 book called ‘Possum Living’, to an even older , classic ‘The Importance of Living’ which is a primer on living an idle life, to a contemporary book called ‘How to be free’ & from Ancient Greek Philosophers. The findings have been pretty Interesting. I will kickstart the Inspiration from the Greek Philosopher Epicurus.

According to the Wise Philosopher Epicurus wealth beyond a certain level is waste, it is like water overflowing from a full bucket…yet people in their quest to earn more n more forget such simple truths.

“When we say…that pleasure is the end and aim of life, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not by an unbroken succession of drinking bouts and of revelry, not by sexual lust, nor the enjoyment of fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.” —Epicurus

The most important mistake people make, according to Epicurus, is that they associate the idea of happiness with having lots of money. He also managed to explain why we tend to make such an erroneous association. Though Epicurus proclaimed that pleasure is the most essential thing in life, he appears to have led a rather simple, moderate life: simple clothes, simple home, drinking water rather than wine, and having frugal meals.

The basic concept in his philosophy is that we are starkly unable to understand what can make us happy. We are therefore very much attracted to material things rather than spiritual ones. And what do we do? We go shopping for useless things. Thus we replace our real needs with things like clothes, furniture, cars, nice houses, and such like. But as this Greek philosopher tried to prove, there are only three things we need to be happy: friends, freedom, and an analyzed life.

“What’s good is easy to get.” We need food, water, shelter from the elements, and safety from hostile animals and people. All these things lie ready to hand and can be acquired with little effort or money. We don’t need caviar, champagne, palaces, or bodyguards, which are expensive and difficult to acquire and keep. People who want more than they need are making a fundamental mistake, a mistake that reduces their chances of being satisfied and causes needless anxiety.

Being cheerful is the key to being happy. As long as we are cheerful it takes very little to keep us happy, but without cheerfulness we cannot really enjoy even the so-called ‘pleasures’ of life. Being cheerful is a state which is full of pleasure

He also believed in freedom. He felt that allowing your boss – be they employer or political master – to tell you what to do couldn’t help you achieve happiness. This is where the garden came in. With his followers he brought a house and a garden on the outskirts of Athens in 306 BC where they grew all the food they needed to live. It wasn’t the finest food in the world, just simple, rural fare. But it did for them. It gave them time to think, which is the third of Epicurus’s ingredients for a happy life.

we need to be happy is “an analyzed life”. That meant taking time to think and consider our worries, what stresses out and why. Epicurus was of the opinion that our worries might decrease simply by analyzing them very carefully and rationally.

The fundamental obstacle to happiness, says Epicurus, is anxiety. No matter how rich or famous you are, you won’t be happy if you’re anxious to be richer or more famous. No matter how good your health is, you won’t be happy if you’re anxious about getting sick.

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September 6, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Consumerism, Greek Philosophers, Happiness, I-Me-Myself, Inspiration, Meaning of Life, MEMEME, My lifestyle, My Values, Philosophy, Quitting the Rat Race, Reflections/Musings, Simplicity, Wisdom.

8 Comments

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