Peace and Safety to the Epicureans of today, no matter where you might be! On this Twentieth of February I would like to call attention to the success of the Epicurean Garden in Athens in putting on their “4th Panhellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy” this past weekend. The full agenda can be found here and numbers of Youtube videos can be found by following this link.
Why is this important? Epicureanism has a very specific set of core intellectual doctrines, but these doctrines were never intended to exist only in the pages of books. They are not magical incantations to prepare troubled souls for a mythical escape from life. Epicureanism is a cure for living bodies and living minds, and shows us how to live happily today, in the real world.
One of the most important things that Epicurus taught as a requirement for happiness is that we surround ourselves with real live people who are our friends and share our outlook on life. In the words of Principal Doctrine 27: “Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship.”
Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in Greece, where there are sufficient friends of Epicurus to conduct conferences with hundreds in attendance. But the technological revolution has made possible long-distance interactions never before possible, and these can serve as the first step in re-introducing Epicurean fellowship in the modern world. Resources like “Meetup” groups make it possible to take relatively easy steps in that direction. It is easy to coordinate lists of individual blogs and local initiatives. And of course we already have an active Facebook group in which I hope you will participate if you do not already.
The benefit we get from the study of Epicurus will be dramatically limited if we fail to take Epicurus’ advice in this very specific area. Don’t just read Epicurus, make an effort to apply the lesson he taught as clearly as any other:
“Exercise yourself in these and related precepts day and night, both by yourself and with one who is like-minded; then never, either in waking or in dream, will you be disturbed, but will live as a god among men. For man loses all semblance of mortality by living in the midst of immortal blessings.” (Letter to Menoeceus)
So for those of us who do not live in areas where Epicurean fellowship currently exists, we have a personal prime directive. In pursuing it we can look for our example to Athens, just as in the ancient world when the Garden was new. The directive is: Use the resources that are available to you to cultivate Epicurean friends in your own life. Spread the word of Epicurus to those who are well disposed to hear it, and educate a new generation of Epicureans.
Link to “Message to Athens” from Cassius Amicus Μήνυμα προς την Αθήνα από έναν Αμερικανό φίλο
As Seneca recorded: Sic fac omnia tamquam spectet Epicurus! So do all things as though watching were Epicurus!
And as Philodemus wrote: “I will be faithful to Epicurus, according to whom it has been my choice to live.“