“Don’t delay your enjoyment!” And 6 other life lessons from Epicurus

He lives! This is, in fact, the message of the philosopher Epicurus. In these tough times, take advantage of his life lessons and get through the stress-free winter.

‘How!?’ We hear you screeching, laundry baskets overflowing, your utility bill giving you a slight heart attack, and you wondering if a nuclear bomb shelter would fit in your backyard.

We live in a challenging time. Despite our great prosperity, there is much going on in the world that worries and frightens us: growing economic inequality, climate change, pandemic, nuclear threat … We may live much longer than the Greeks, and we often do it Unhealthy: with deprivation From sleep, poor food, lack of sunlight, exercise, a lot of mutual competition, great social injustice and isolation.

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Time to switch to epicurean, we guess. The term Epicurean is sometimes used pejoratively to refer to the Burgundian stereotype, who likes to devour a portion of female beauty between meals. However, this ancient philosophical movement is not about unbridled self-indulgence.

Although, according to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (1st century BC), pleasure is actually the highest benefit – the basis of all happiness – you must pursue this pleasure in a responsible and meaningful way. Epicureans believe that by embracing what is now, choosing the things that bring you pleasure and consciously avoiding pain and anxiety, you will be happier in life.

Contemporary American philosopher Katherine Wilson argues in her latest book How To Be An Epicurean? The ancient art of enjoying life that “Epicurean answers” to topics like money, love, and family is more relevant than ever. We’ve charted seven great lessons that can also happily change your life.

Lesson 1

Live like it’s your last day

In his famous song, André Hazes Jr. to embrace the present. Certainly not the first. Epicurus did it before him more than two thousand years ago.

Sometimes we feel – consciously or unconsciously – that we have to make certain sacrifices for a sacred purpose. Often this is the legacy of a religion we were brought up with, which instilled in us that after we die, we must be responsible for our actions.

But Epicurus did not believe in the afterlife. Modern Epicureanism also says that we mistakenly believe it is a virtue to save money or pleasure until the children are out of the house, until better times come or until we win the lottery. We postpone our enjoyment of a bright future that may never come.

Beware, sometimes it may be wise to save, and Epicureans believe in moderation. But if you rearrange your priorities, you can take on more than you think, and every day may be your last.

If you’re young, don’t forget that one day you’ll be too old and weak to, say, take a long trip or watch Netflix late at night. And when you are old, it is good to realize that the recommendations given to the young man no longer apply to you. In short: at eighty-five you should not hesitate to eat dessert – Go for it.

Lesson 2:

Do not suffer in silence

Epicurus rejects the idea that we have to put up with the discomfort. Why wait with a headache reliever? Why is staying in a job or relationship causing you misery and stress? Why are you wearing that tight skirt you can barely breathe in?

Sometimes we are too tired, too distracted, or too lazy to make improvements. Sometimes we spend so much money on something and feel we have to use it. Lariekoek, an Epicurean, believes that in the future you will think better before you spend money on something you don’t immediately find one hundred percent cool.

If your job is not to your liking, ask yourself how much money you really need. Research shows that working fewer hours reduces stress and leads to a more balanced life. Resist the myth that suffering is a virtue. Pain and discomfort prevent you from enjoying it to the fullest.

Even Epicureans argue that avoiding pain contributes more to happiness than the pursuit of pleasure. Strictly speaking, you don’t need a car? Then avoid the hassle of buying, maintaining, and searching for parking… If you don’t have the patience and time, why pick a pet and all the burdens that come with it?

Epicureans recognize that certain inconveniences are necessary for long-term enjoyment, such as studying for an exam or raising children.

Lesson 3:

Don’t exclude yourself

Epicureans who choose to have children – or who have not avoided the inconvenience of having children – strive to make it the most enjoyable experience possible. The more they enjoy each other’s company as partners and the more willing they are to work together, the more successful they will be in this endeavor.

For all good intentions, motherhood is often accompanied by misplaced guilt. Epicureans believe that you should be able to enjoy life’s pleasures without feeling guilty and without thinking that you deserve them.

Epicureans introduce their children to as many sources of pleasure as possible: food and drink, nature, architecture, music, painting, travel, knowledge. But parents continue to explore the world and their friendships. They do not sacrifice their interests and adult relationships by excessively arranging their children’s social lives and catering to all their whims.

Choosing pleasure and avoiding discomfort is also related to the fact that what you gain from it does not cause pain and discomfort to others. vice versa.

Lesson 4

Don’t be afraid of death

According to Epicureanism, everything is limited, and so are humans. We do not have to torment ourselves in this life in the hope of being rewarded in the future. Epicureans believe that everything in the world has a natural expiration date that we have to accept – we just have to make room for new people – and that when life leaves the body, the ability to perceive, feel and think disappears.

So there is no need to be afraid. Easier said than done: Fear is not rational and death may not hurt, and the path to it is not entirely tempting. How then can we embrace death? Many people would rather not think about death and then not make arrangements or articulate their desires.

However, research shows that those who put things on paper and make clear how they want to spend their last months, days, and hours are less anxious and anxious when the end of life approaches than those who avoid the issue altogether.

Katherine Wilson: “Thinking that I will never see my children reach the age that I am in now makes me sad, but it is all the more reason to talk to them now about their aspirations and expectations for the future and let them know how much I love them.”

The fifth lesson

We know that reality is different for everyone

There were differences of opinion also among the ancient Greeks. Even then they were a source of annoyance and frustration. How do you deal with it Epicurean? By realizing that everyone sees reality differently and by correctly defining the consequences of your way of thinking.

Catherine Wilson illustrates with an example. Suppose your teen wants to go to school in a crazy outfit. Your teen may find that some factors influence your judgment of appropriate clothing at school, i.e. you are completely ignorant of what is hip at the moment. On the other hand, you think you’re using timeless standards about good taste. In short, whatever you think looks tacky or tacky, your teen is the perfect outfit.

The result: screams, tears, headaches. It’s hard to find fun. Therefore, determine the consequences of your thinking and fears. Is your teen putting himself at risk by leaving the house in this outfit? Is this the beginning of the way to dress for life that means he’ll never get a job?

Conversely, your child should also be wondering if he can alleviate your anxiety by putting on something else – which, of course, doesn’t affect his school standing. If both parties derive joy from harmony and want to avoid disturbing others, you can resolve any disagreement.

Lesson 6

spend consciously

The Epicurean will honestly weigh which purchases brought real gratification and which were not worth the effort or money, and draw his conclusions. Maybe you really enjoy that expensive smartwatch. Then your money is well spent.

But also make a list of the purchases you regretted that weren’t worth the money: the fitness equipment you never used or that expensive dress you only wore once.

Remember that the fun you get from certain purchases is sometimes limited to the moment of the purchase itself, after which you quickly start looking for a new fun experience.

lesson seven

Enjoy your senses

Epicureans point to the richness of the sensual world and encourage us to enjoy it unabashedly. Smell flowers or herbs like vanilla and lavender, taste berries and cocoa, enjoy the view of the sea and evening sky, listen to the sounds of birdsong or your favorite music, and enjoy silk, velvet or leather.

Avoid unpleasant sensory sensations such as dogs barking, hospital corridors, chemical fragrances, cleaning products, artificial flavors, crowded intersections, and clothes that are too rough or tight.

When people are asked what activities are most enjoyable for them, they respond with ‘dealing with loved ones, exercising, socializing, and relaxing,’ says Catherine Wilson in her book.

Read more?

How to Become an Epicurean (The Ancient Art of Enjoying Life) by Katherine Wilson

This article previously appeared in the print edition of Nouveau (c) Nouveau / DPG Media 2022

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