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What would Epicurus say about this pandemic?

I have to apologise to Epicurus for misinterpreting him all my life. I blame it on popular culture and philosophy teacher, who should have made me retake the exam. Fortunately, with such a resurgence of interest in classical antiquity, the often misquoted and misunderstood philosophers of yore got another chance. The Internet created a repository of writings accessible now to everyone, not just academics and bookworms. Take the  Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy  for instance, the equivalent of Github  and its treasure trove of open source. The article on Epicurus has a specific reference to friendship.  He thought so highly of it that he set up a community of the likely-minded. It was called The Garden. The Epicurean view on friendship? A blessing, a source of pleasure, a fortress of tranquility, a fountain of trust. A great fortune can never give us what friends do. Bickering and occasional bitterness, the hallmark of every family relationship, are notably absent among friends. The

Death, statistics and reality

 They are usually buried deep in official statistics folders, far away from awareness.  Death figures are not something anyone likes looking at on a regular, let alone daily, basis. Not even actuaries, presumably. It changed with Covid-19 (why 19 when the pandemics started in 2020, but that's another question). Daily death figures are everywhere. They do not make comfortable reading, listening to or talking about. For anyone who lost a relative or a friend, they are horrifically painful. If not, fear for one's own fate is a powerful enough trigger. Starting with the ancients, not just classical Greece and Rome, death was a topic to ponder and draw wisdom from. Every thing that was left undone, all the words that could have been spoken, the impermanence of life, they were brought to the forefront of consciousness, or so we like to think. It's not modern philosophers who invented "Memento Mori", nor are these two Latin words widely quoted. How could they be? They ar

Why are cats so popular? It's envy, guys

  Question of the day: how come cats are so popular on every social media platform?   Answer of the day: popularity is just disguised envy. Cat owners, more acutely, and the rest less affected, due to lower exposure, all wish they were like cats. Free, independent, vaguely domesticated. Doing what they please, when they feel like it, and unflinching when confronted with an obstacle. All of the above has been already said, written and read many times. I claim discovering the feeling behind general fascination with cats.  Envy, that is. Without going all biblical about it, let us agree envy is one constant layer of human composition. This one ingredient is lurking behind an adoring gaze: if only we could be like cats. 

Ambition drives us all

Good old reliable friend, the dictionary, is going to co-author this blog post. I would have posted its photo as well, but I was not too sure if it did not involve some copyright law infringement. Only half-joking. "Ambition drives us all' sounds very much like one of those insufferable sweeping statements, forgotten as soon as read or heard. I am not aiming for posterity here, just to make a point. A word's origin reveals its meaning better than long philosophical notes. Words, much more than people, are taken for granted because of their longer life span. Ambition is just an example. It comes from a Latin word, ambire, which means to go around. Going around is not a particularly interesting pastime, and that's being polite. It is frankly quite boring, a feature compounded by its obvious aimlessness. That's why no one goes around for any long period of time. Hidden or covert, there is an aim for being present one moment here and a bit later there.  In ancient Rome

Zoon Politikon is not political

 Did you know which are the top blogging topics?  I did not, until I looked them up, using the predictable search engines available to Internet tribes. The results were quite interesting. "How to.." and "Self-development" take the lion's share of the blogosphere, which is itself expanding at dizzying speed. Is everyone after some form of competence and also keen of becoming a better version of oneself? It seems so, but why? The ancients have the answer, nothing surprising here. Aristotle's view of man as "Zoon Politikon", for instance. Often quoted and rarely used correctly,  these two words do not refer to man as a 'political animal",  such as someone who is totally enamoured of politics as understood in today's parlance. Zoon is a living creature and "politikon" comes from polis, which means city, the complex social structure where people live and do things together.  Man is a social creature, who needs to be part of a grou

Dating in Covid Times

I have read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, including the novel "Love in the Time of Cholera".  I confess that I paraphrased his title for this blog post.

Forget after viewing

 Life’s too short for bad photos, true. Still, it’s not always possible to avoid mediocrity.            Take mobile phone cameras, for instance. Zooming does bad things to pixels and the end result is more of a failed attempt, bravely exhibited. The owl above is such a good example. There it was perching on a cold metal bar, minding its own business. I approached it, mobile at the ready. Took a pic and turned round, in search of other subjects. All of its glorious owlish looks survived on my retina and somewhere between two brain folds. Sorry.