I do not usually cross-post my “This Week in Epicureanism” Facebook posts here to the main web page, but this time the update contains an announcement of a new Facebook group that is worth checking out. I know some number (not sure how many) of people who see this web page do not see the Facebook postings, so this is one announcement I want to be sure no one misses:
***THIS WEEK IN EPICUREANISM – 4/12/2014***
**This is the milestone FIFTHIETH in a series of weekly updates on news from the world of Epicureanism. These posts are collected at the Epicurean Philosophy Today forum at http://www.epicurus.englishboards.com/t19-this-week-in-epicureanism Registration is free and easy, and if you subscribe to the “This Week in Epicureanism” thread, you will receive emailed updates each time a “This Week In Epicureanism” post is made. I compile these each week as a personal exercise to help myself keep track of what people are talking about, and if you don’t have time to monitor the facebook forums as closely as I do I hope you’ll find this to be of some interest to you as well.
**This week saw the launching of a new Epicurean Facebook group that I encourage everyone with an interest in Epicurus to “join.” The new “Epicurean Philosophy” group ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ ) has a bit of history behind it that is worth relating. The Epicurean world has a number of excellent websites (collected here: http://epicuruscentral.wordpress.com/ ), but the real breakthough in Epicurean communication came several years ago with the “Garden of Epicurus” facebook group set up by Jaakko Wallenius of Finland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaakko_Wallenius ). Jaakko was a prolific writer and journalist, and he launched a flotilla of websites dedicated to the many philosophers he admired, including the Garden of Epicurus group. Jaakko was always up-front that he was not an “orthodox” Epicurean, and indeed his wikipedia entry states that “he considered himself an Epicurean Stoic Humanist as well as an atheist.” Jaakko always endured with good humor the ribbing of more orthodox types who wondered what a “Stoic” and “Atheist” saw in Epicurus. Regardless of his personal heresies (more humor), Jaakko was a fountain of excellent writing, and he single-handedly popularized many of his websites in addition to the Garden of Epicurus.
Tragedy stuck in November of 2011, however, when Jaakko was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. In his last entry to his blog, Being Human, Jaakko wrote: “I am still here thanks to chemotherapy that has given me an additional year and a half, but the therapies were terminated a week ago because their ability to fight my cancer has waned off. I am on my own now, but nobody knows how soon the end will come. However, it is quite certain that I will not see my 56th birthday in January of 2014.” He died on June 11, 2013.
The world of popular philosophy lost a great mind on that date, and his family lost a loved-one, to all of whom are owed our most serious condolences and appreciation. In comparison, our loss of a group admin is nothing.
Now, with that comment, I end the solemnity and will carry on as I think Jaakko would want, with good-natured ribbing in a most deliberate way.
Jaakko was a great admirer of Marcus Aurelius, for reasons I accepted with chagrin. Well — in the TRUE fashion of Marcus Aurelius, who through Stoic fatalism left the Roman Empire in a HUGE jam by failing to line up a capable successor, Jaakko left our little Garden of Epicurus facebook group in a similar quandry. Unlike Epicurus, who with foresight designated Hermarchus to take over leadership of the school after his death, prior to his illness Jaakko had never designated any additional admins for the group. Therefore, with Jaakko’s passing, his admin password also crossed the River Styx into Acheron — or whatever fiction the Stoics would prefer us to believe!
Despite long efforts by Ilkka, myself, and others, we have not been able to get Facebook to allow the active members of the group to designate new admins. Jaakko’s family has been contacted, and has responded graciously, but apparently they do not have access to the password either. For that reason, since Jaakko’s death, we have had no “moderation” for the group, meaning no ability to supervise the adding of new members to the group or otherwise handle the administrative aspects of keeping a group in good order.
Now the Garden of Epicurus is no ordinary group, of course, so as you would expect the issues have been few, and we’ve had no troubles of any significance. But because we had no admin, we could not see or respond to the “join” requests that sometimes came in, and THAT is a problem, as we want to respond quickly to all who indicate an interest in Epicurus.
Likewise, I believe we would all like to think that our group will expand over time. The larger it gets, the more we can expect issues to arise in the future which will require moderation. Suffice it to say on that point that a number of Epicurean views are “mildly controversial” so as our numbers and visibility increase, we can expect to have the need to stamp out the trolls.
All of that is a long story to (1) honor and appreciate what Jaakko has done for us, and (2) explain why Stephen Harvey-Brooks took the initiative this past week to set up the new “Epicurean Philosophy” group. He has designated several of our active members as admins already, so we should have no further recurrence of our loss of control over the group. So far as I know he has not set up any kind of “polity” for running the group, but perhaps that will come over time if in fact enough people find it to be of use. Stephen has a *great* deal of experience in administering online groups. He is also the webmaster of the Epicurean Philosophy Today forum, and he has administered many other forums in the past. I am sure that he would like to hear from anyone with comments or suggestions about the group, and I am sure he would appreciate your participation in any way you like.
So if you have not already done so, please go over now to https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ and be sure that you are listed as a member of the new group. I think what we are about to find is that many of us will cross-post to both groups (as well as to the NewEpicurean and the SocietyofEpicurus facebook homes as well. Facebook seems to do a good job combining multiple posts into a single facebook timeline entry, but let us know if you start getting too many multiple entries on your timeline.
** That’s the big news of the week, but we also had several significant posts to mention –
**First, immediately after last week’s update, Stephen posted an excellent passage on how Epicureanism has helped him overcome a tendency to nihilism: https://www.facebook.com/groups/gardenofepicurus/permalink/617533361669052/?stream_ref=2 This is a recurring issue, and especially hits home with those of us (like Stephen and me) who are readers of Nietzsche’s views on the subject. Nietszche himself was not able to wrap his mind around the Epicurean solution to this problem, and felt the need to look to a Pythagorean/Stoic cycle of “eternal return” as his response to nihilism. Stephen’s post well summarizes how despite Nietzsche’s ultimate separation of himself from Epicurean views, Epicureanism IS a sufficient response to nihilistic despair – without the need to hypothesize a “Groundhog Day” type of eternal return for motivation. Excellent comments after the post too.
**Stephen also posted to a youtube video on Epicureanism by someone named “FarWestMan.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/gardenofepicurus/permalink/619361218152933/?stream_ref=2 Unfortunately from my personal point of view, the video focuses heavily on analysis by comparison to Buddhism, and by focus on an alleged “hedonic treadmill.” Thus I can’t recommend this as an introductory video, but the link was well worth posting as an example of how some people view the basics of the philosophy. In my view it should be a major priority of us who are real fans of Epicurus to produce new introductory videos, so this is definitely a link to review as we consider how to better structure introductory content.
**Also to round out the week, Stephen’s posts about setting up the new group are here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/gardenofepicurus/permalink/619808721441516/?stream_ref=2 and here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/gardenofepicurus/permalink/619826314773090/?stream_ref=2
** I hope to have more news next week about an updated edition of an epub I am working on to provide better access to the core works of Epicurus, but I will leave that for next week.
What I would like to add here as a personal note for those who read this is that I truly appreciate the friendship (even though it may be only “internet friendship”) of those who participate regularly here. It is very easy to get caught up in our day-to-day living (as I am guilty of lately) and fail to find the time to pursue our philosophical interests. Speaking only for myself, I find this to be a prescription for disaster — the only way I can keep my “day-to-day” life organized is to keep my MIND organized, and the best way I know to do that is to refer to the guidance Epicurus left us for cutting through all the smoke and mirrors that “the crowd” throws our way in all walks of life.
Just before writing the update tonight I had a friend call me and unload a story of disaster after disaster in his own close family, from unemployment to medical problems (while lacking insurance of course) to clinical depression causing family members to become dependent on him — on and on in what I used to think when growing up belonged only in afternoon soap operas. His call was a good reminder that virtually ALL of us — and I dare say almost without exception – face our own personal struggles and turmoils that we feel helpless against. Some of those troubles indeed have no remedies – death and serious illness (bodily and mental) stalk us all. But if there ever lived a man whose vision better equips us to deal with our troubles than Epicurus, I am not aware of him. Epicurus shows us the remedies that we need ourselves, and that we need in order to assist our friends. The study of Epicurus is the necessary road on which to find those remedies.
And that brings LUCIAN to mind, so let’s close with his words from Alexander the Oracle-Monger:
“My object, dear friend, in making this small selection from a great mass of material has been twofold. First, I was willing to oblige a friend and comrade who is for me the pattern of wisdom, sincerity, good humor, justice, tranquillity, and geniality. But secondly I was still more concerned (a preference which you may be far from resenting) to strike a blow for Epicurus, that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him. Yet I think causal readers too may find my essay not unserviceable, since it is not only destructive, but for men of sense, constructive also.”
****Epicurus, that great man whose holiness and divinity of nature were not shams, who alone had and imparted true insight into the good, and who brought deliverance to all that consorted with him!!***
**That’s it for the week! As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please add a comment or participate in the Garden of Epicurus https://www.facebook.com/groups/gardenofepicurus/ or the new Epicurean Philosophy group https://www.facebook.com/groups/EpicureanPhilosophy/ !
PEACE AND SAFETY!