Skip to main content

What would Epicurus say about this pandemic?

Oslo park statue

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.

Then it's respect, not due to seniority, but simply because it is friendship's essential ingredient. It involves no desire to change a friend to suit one's egotistic take on life.

Friendship is in agony when emotional blackmail appears and it dies altogether in that last stage, emotional treason. 

When it is fully understood and practised, friendship become a survival mechanism, a protective force, the knight in shining armour. It must be served though and it does not fare well when time apart starts weakening the links.

Epicurus' Garden was an acknowledgement, by the empiricist that he was, that friendships need physical proximity.

The pandemic has taken that away that in the most brutal manner.  Online conversations, debates, arguments even, all miss directness.

Has anyone wished they lived  now in an Epicurean Garden rather than being part of what is dryly called 'a household'?


Popular posts from this blog

A dog's life

This is going to outrage dog lovers, but I think that humans’ tyrannical nature is revealed not just when it enslaves other humans, but also when it enslaves dogs. We never say 'free as a dog", do we? Just 'free as a bird'. Dogs and humans, not all what it seems. We take a wolf at heart and spend lots of time and energy teaching it to obey and react to commands.  (To be more historically accurate, the 'taking' happened a long time ago, and it succeeded, so very different from cats.) We are prepared to downsize our vocabulary to a few words in order to achieve that.  We literally put up with shit.  All in the name of training, while the true purpose looks more like having a totally obedient living being under our control, one emitting apparent devotion.  In humans it’s called the Stockholm syndrome.  Even the basic freedoms of sniffing and running are restricted anywhere near human habitat. It takes a trip back to the wild

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 pandemic 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 are