A promise of happiness it is a title that could not fail to attract my attention. Some time ago the Sunday de The sun 24 hours opened with a piece of Armando Massarenti on classical culture and on the thoughts of the ancients. Dedicating ample space to aphorisms about happiness.
The ancients, in that article, are in fact defined healthy carriers of happiness. We are obviously talking about philosophy and who invented it while living it. We must therefore go back centuries, to when the word philosophy already had in itself the positivity of something that is born out of love: of beauty, of knowledge, of existence, of the universe, of research, of the other and of oneself.
Pragmatism and life
The shocking thing for us is the fine pragmatism of such thoughts and the investigation around them. Living well as a lifestyle is, in short, an objective and a practice, the conquest is a goal that can be reasoned about among associates by arguing and deducing.
Ancient thought and, in particular, that of Epicurus (Athenian by adoption who lived in the third century BC), are the starting point, according to Massarenti, if you want to embrace happiness. There Letter to Meneceowhich has come down to our days, is that pink booklet that can be found on the stalls for a few euros, renamed with the title Letter about happiness.
Read also: Five fundamental phrases about Aristotle’s happiness
Epicurus, therefore, does not write a treatise or an exegesis, but one very simple letter. That is the most spontaneous and friendly form we know when we want to get to know someone through the written word. The letter is from me to you who interests me and whom I care. It is a short and double thread that binds us and is not lost in anonymity.
The choice of the letter
The letter is a medium that is also a message. Epicurus in this, if you will, had anticipated the definition that sociologist Marshall McLuhan would have coined many centuries later about the dynamics of communication. The challenge that Sunday launches is to propose a series of happy maxims which, for the sake of brevity and conciseness, are combined with the form of tweets.
I therefore picked up the Letter to Meneceo. It had been there for some years, who knows how many times I absent-mindedly moved it to make room for new volumes (some even disappointing and left unfinished). Yet I went straight to that shelf, third row on the left. And I came up with five philosophical phrases, five aphorisms about happiness.
1. Age doesn’t matter
When should happiness be dealt with?
And who said that happiness is only for young people? From the first lines of the Letter to Meneceo the verb philosophical, which has precisely the same root of philosophy, appears in almost every line. It is the viaticum for the happiness that exists.
Epicurus is not speaking in the abstract, he says to his friend Meneceo that we must look for things that have happiness because when she is there, we have everything. How beautiful this holistic happiness we are not wondering how long it lasts, risking to evaporate it instantly. How beautiful this happiness that, if achieved, permeates everything (panta in Greek it is something absolute) that concerns us.
One is never too young or too old for the knowledge of happiness. At any age it is nice to take care of the well-being of our soul.
2. The Gods are happy
Why fear them?
The first practical tip for a happy life is to consider that the gods they are so perfect that they cannot care for human things. Why fear them? Why sacrifice and sacrifice oneself to instill their will? And what else is all this but superstition that enslaves?
For Epicurus, in fact, the gods exist, this is beyond doubt. He comes to that awareness through reasoning about the way we know things. But if this is true, and if it is also true that evil exists, then the gods must necessarily take no interest in our world. Their happiness she is not troubled by us. And therefore they cannot – indeed, to be precise, they have no interest in – change our world.
Gods exist […]but we know that they are perfectly happy, they recognize their fellow man and who is not such consider him a stranger.
3. Enjoy the mortality of life
The deception of infinite time
Precept number two for a happy life: do not fear death. Easy to say. Yes, easy if it is not just a thought to chase away, but a conscience (in Greek gnosis says it all), of a knowledge of why.
Read also: Five Seneca phrases to remember
Death and life eliminate each other, the presence of one excludes the other. Death is the disintegration of atoms of body, mind and soul. The real deception is the desire for immortality that projects man beyond the present and makes him wait for something that does not exist. We have to get rid of all this, we have to learn to appreciate the life we have before us, not the one we dream of elsewhere.
The exact awareness that death means nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, without the deception of infinite time that is induced by the desire for immortality.
4. Death is nothing
There is no need to flee
The logic is flawless, the materialism of the life / death contrast leads to a single conclusion: death is not to be feared. It is useless to waste life (and happiness) thinking of its opposite, foolish to invoke it because it opens to nothing but nothing.
On the other hand, if dying means disappearing, no longer being, then it also means not suffering. It also means not having rewards or punishments. It also means that death is not to be cared for, because when she is there we are not there, and when we are there she is not there.
The death […] it is nothing for the living or the dead. For the living there is not, the dead are no more. Instead the people now flee it as the worst evil, now they invoke it as a rest to the evils they live.
5. The time of the essay
The ability to choose
The wise therefore he is the one who, in the conduct of life, does not abandon himself to superstition, does not fear death, considers life a good and is selective with respect to his time (kronos it is time that passes). The blessed and wise life is, therefore, the ability to choose.
Epicurus – in the sentence we transcribe below – gives the example of food because man is also made of pleasures and desires. Desires that, however, must not degenerate into restlessness and disturbance of the soul.
The sage does not mind living and is not afraid of not living. Life is not bad for him, nor is it bad not to live. But as he chooses the best of foods, not the quantity, so he enjoys not the longest but the sweetest time.
This letter should be attached to textbooks, posted in the classroom, on the bus and at the post office when queuing. It should be reread as often as we are missing that the best time it is not the longest but the sweetest.
And you, which aphorism about Epicurus’ happiness do you prefer?
Point out more aphorisms about Epicurus’ happiness in the comments.
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