(Epicurus was a man who made a living for himself by espousing philosophy in ancient Greece around 300 years Before Christ. He lived a long life for his time, 71 years.)
The core concept of his teaching was that the secret to life was to make your life pain-free and tranquil; and that it was your job to do so in order to attain happiness.
(tranquil ~ free from disturbance, free from fear, calm, peaceful, serene.)
He taught how to achieve that for yourself. That’s of course why students found him; and that’s why his school sprouted and grew.
The route, he espoused, was through philosophy.
(Surprise! “I, Epicurus, teach philosophy. Just sayin.”)
The very purpose of philosophy, he said, was for one’s achievement of a tranquil happiness; and the way to and though that route, was to become self-sufficient and surrounded by friends.
(I, Forrest, therefore ask you to now send your tuition donations to me via PayPal.
In lieu of payment, I’m happy to accept happy hour or dinner with you and any of your friends who want to continue to be surrounded by loving friends.
Your applause is very kind. Thank you very much.)
He also got this right:
Pleasure and Pain are good measures of what is good for and bad for a happy, tranquil life. Furthermore, happiness is more readily attained when one moderates one’s desires and finds pleasure in simple things—like in a garden, for instance.
He also taught that the universe is infinite and eternal; and that, ultimately, all events boil down to atoms moving in vast, empty space—implying that events in life could be better understood by better understanding how atoms behave.
But then he went off the rails a little:
He said Pleasure and Pain were measures of Good and Evil.
OK. Not really wrong, but he was taking artistic liberty with the definitions of the words good and evil. His semantics show us that he was thinking a bit too selfishly.
(The concept of Good and the concept of Evil is better used in their expanded forms:
If an action or result of an action, or a decision to not perform an action, helps improve the survival of more than it harms, then it meets the measure of the purest definition of “good.” And if an action or result of an action, or a decision to not perform an action, causes less survival potential than it helps, then it meets the measure of the purest definition of “evil.” Note that to fully expand that measure to its purest, truest, most applicable and most useful; the decision-maker must contemplate the effect of their decision on everyone and all, including in the long run. Love, Forrest.)
But, following his concept that Pleasure and Pain were good measures of Good and Evil, Epicurus then spun off into quagmire (as is often the case when one gets to thinking too selfishly):
He purported that death was not only the end of the body, but also of the soul.
Sorry; that’s plain wrong.
However, his purpose behind teaching that was quite right:
He said therefore one should not fear death;
“Death is meaningless to the living because they are living, and meaningless to the dead… because they are dead.”
Indeed one lives better in the here and now when one does not fear death in one’s future.
Of course less fear in life makes for greater happiness in it.
He also espoused that one should not fear the supernatural, because the gods neither reward nor punish humans.
That’s where this all becomes, really, philosophical. That’s the kind of wonderment to discuss over happy hour or dinner with wine. Let’s.
Epicurus got it right:
Imagine a lush garden full of fresh fruits and vegetables. A temperate, fragrant breeze wafts, calling one to stop and breathe-in ocean-air amidst the beauty of Nature and the fellowship of friends and family passing to and fro along the paths, dressed in comfortable robes, engaging one another in mind-expanding conversations on science, philosophy, and art. In one corner a minstrel plays harmonious chords on his lyre. In another there is a discussion of freewill: the philosopher explains that there is no reason to fear the gods and that human beings have complete freedom to choose their own path in life, to obtain happiness in the here and now.
That was Epicurus’ school. He called it “The Garden.”
He loved life’s smarts.
Today we have a phrase for the concept that most concisely captures Epicurus’ core maxim. This phrase was not yet fully conceptualized back then because the ancient Greeks did not yet fully differentiate between thought and soul—or the spiritual side of us—the spiritual being, if you will, the you-ness of you.
The phrase we use today is Peace of Mind.
The way to happiness in life is through peace of mind. The way to that is through philosophy, because that helps us share with friends the creation of good, the reduction of evil, and the interchange of the fruits of life and living.
Happily, he was wrong about the end of life being the end of you, the spiritual being.
Peace, love, and happiness to you and yours.