|Seems like sound advice|
I’m drawn to rational beliefs and philosophies. Hence my admiration for the British Empirical philosophers, particularly the sublime philosophy of David Hume. As for the ancients, I’m attracted to the doctrines of Epicurus. Epicurus flourished c306 BC and founded a school in Athens (‘The Garden’). Not so much a school- more of a commune. Unlike his predecessors and contemporaries, he freely admitted women and slaves. His philosophy was a mixture between contemplation about the physical world (he believed in indivisible atoms) and exhortations for a simple, sober life. His community was not averse to private ownership of goods and property, however, they preached against rampant consumerism.
Epicurus’ philosophy is associated with the pursuit of pleasure. But he was not a hedonist in the modern sense of the word. He emphasized simple pleasures such as friendship and satiation with a refreshing, but frugal repast and he did not encourage rampant sexual activity or gluttony (more fool him). Although allowing wine, Epicurus’ acolytes were not encouraged to imbibe to the point of drunkenness.
Most of what we know about Epicurus comes from the work of other philosophers. Although he wrote prodigiously (300 books), little remains of his work- mostly letters to his followers. He appears to conform to rational tenets and insisted that nothing should be believed except that which could be tested by direct observation or logical deduction. Although not denying the existence of the gods, explicitly, he taught that the gods did not interact with the world of man. This is as about as close to atheism that was allowed in Ancient Greek society without the serious accusation of impiety. He is credited with the insightful: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" A potent critique of Theism as understood in the conventional sense and an accusation that appears highly relevant in conjunction with the Christian understanding of the deity. And indeed, his argument has remained a historical thorn in the side of religious belief and has spurred/spawned the development of a specialist sub-division of theology, called Theodicy. No doubt, the arguments put forward against Epicurus’ original injunction/contention have been ingenious. To my mind they rarely address the core problem and represent an extreme form of theological sophistry which remains at best unconvincing, and at worst, absurd.
Of particular interest is Epicurus’ concept of death. While it is true that the act of dying can be extremely unpleasant, once we slip away we are no longer sentient and therefore beyond any conscious existence; pain can be no more. For Epicurus, death is an eternal dreamless sleep. He denies any form of afterlife in contradiction to most mainstream religions. Epicurus has no time for muddled thinking with regard to death. Death is not to be feared and is no different to the state preceding birth. I find this a sensible logical pronouncement and remarkably refreshing for his period. It is wrong to consider Epicurism as a cult of death. It is more about the celebration of life while we have it. This is a profoundly liberating philosophy.
I’m retiring at the end of June to my small holding in the country. I intend to lead a simple life; veggies grown; homemade rhubarb wine; fruit cider from the trees and eggs garnered from the chucks. I’ll supplement the freezer with a little bow hunting- plenty of critters for harvesting in the Wairarapa. I intend to follow the precepts of the ancient sage: a simple life with simple pleasures. Either that I’ll set up a commune for attractive fallen women under 30. Only time will tell…….Arse.