Reading for the Second Meeting — EPICUREANISM

The next meeting. Our second meeting.

For our first we looked at… where we come from.

For this one we’re going to look at… where we are going.

*

There really isn’t any question about where we are all going, is there?

Like a great play, life is filled with moments of grace and beauty, laughter and joy. Perplexing moral dilemmas. Daunting challenges overcome. We wouldn’t give it up for a second.

But in the end, life is — I am sorry to say it — not a comedy, folks.

Like The Orestialike Hamlet, like Lear our lives belong, unmistakably, to the literary genre of tragedy.

hamlet

As much as we try not to think about it, we know it’s true: our lives are going to end in death — often bloody, usually painful. For everyone.

Damn it, but it’s true.

*

For this next meeting we are going to confront this head-on.

Death — the “undiscovered country,” as Shakespeare called it.

(Though as my son pointed out to me, it HAS been discovered — just nobody has ever reported back. Kind of like the Vikings finding America?)

VikingLongship2

How does it change things to know there is an end?

What does a person do with this life?

*

Please note that this month we are going to have our meeting on the second Thursday, November 13,  instead of third (due to a conflict for a lot of members in the group). I hope that is ok with everyone.

Our meeting will focus on the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, and the conflict between Epicureanism and the religious/supernatural outlook that opposes it (and triumphed — until now).

bronze

Epicurus (341 BC – 270 BC)

Epicurus is the first philosopher in the Western tradition to look at lived experience, as opposed to gods or spirits or immaterial ideals, as the proper guide to life.

Epicurus’ famous four points are:

1. There are no gods or other divine beings to influence your life — so don’t waste your time on them.

2. There is no after-life. Deal with it.

3. All that is important for a good life is already available to you.

4. All that is terrible in life, i.e. suffering, is not worth worrying about… since it is usually either chronic or intense, but not both.

In this month’s reading I have included:

  • The Epicurious Reader;
  • Some chapters from Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve about the re-discovery (in the 15th century) of a famous paean to Epicurus, “On the Nature of Things” by the Roman poet Lucretius;
  • Some excerpts from Lucretius’ “On the Nature of Things

I may post more over the next weeks. Also, please feel free to find your own additional readings and materials online or elsewhere.

Enjoy! See you on the 13th.

 

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