36/100 #The100DayProject #100daysnewthings
I’ve been reading Daniel Klein’s ‘Travels with Epicurus‘, and reflecting on the concept of play in relation to the life stages we all go through.
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism. Born on Samos, he lived in Athens and Asia-Minor. Epicurus is known for teaching that the purpose of philosophy is to attain a happy, tranquil life.
Answering the question “How does one make the most of one’s life?” Epicurus’s answer, according to Klein, was that
the best possible life one could live is a happy one, a life filled with pleasure. At first look, this conclusion seems like a no-brainer, the sort of wisdom found in a horoscope. But Epicurus knew this was only a starting point because it raised the more troublesome and perplexing questions of what constitutes a happy life, which pleasures are truly gratifying and enduring, and which are fleeting and lead to pain, plus the monumental questions of why and how we often thwart ourselves from attaining happiness.
I have to admit that I experienced a pang of disillusionment when I first realized that Epicurus was not an epicurean… i.e. a sensualist with gourmet appetites. Let me put it this way: Epicurus preferred a bowl of plain boiled lentils to a plate of roasted pheasant infused with mastiha (a reduction painstakingly made from the sap of a nut tree), a delicacy slaves prepared for noblemen in ancient Greece. This was … Epicurus’s hankering for personal comfort, which clearly included comfort foods. The pheasant dish titillated the taste buds, but Epicurus was not a sensualist in that sense: he was not looking for dazzling sensory excitement. No, bring on those boiled lentils! For one thing, he took great pleasure in food he had grown himself—that was part of the gratification of eating the lentils. For another, he had a Zen-like attitude about his senses: if he fully engaged in tasting the lentils, he would experience all the subtle delights of their flavor, delights that rival those of more extravagantly spiced fare. And another of this dish’s virtues was that it was a snap to prepare.
(From Waterstones, Non-Fiction Book of the Month)
The defining concepts of such a happy life, according to Epicurus, are ataraxia — i.e. peace and freedom from the disturbances of anxiety and greed — and aponia — the absence of pain — achieved through living a non-demanding, humble life surrounded by friends.
Klein’s book, taking its cue from this philosophy, is asking how best to think about growing into old age, and how best to live through this stage of life. The tendency nowadays, Klein points out, is to escape ageing, by spending our lives trying to remain forever young: sport, transplants and implants, botox, diets, all means to prolong and promote youthful looks. But are we missing out on an important stage of our lives, Klein asks.
To look into this question, the author packed a number of books, and staying on Hydra, Greece — where travel is restricted to going on foot, cycling, or riding a donkey — meditated on the issue. The answer he came up with in this book is playful, but I have no intention of reproducing it here. Suffice to say that with all the turmoil of this week’s Greek elections and heated debates, a calm book on growing older, set on a Greek island, juxtaposing the old with the new, matching island life with world-renowned philosophers, provides a much needed good, as well as romantic, counter-balance.
In his unhurried pace, watching a group of friends playing a game of cards, walking the hilly paths of the island, discussing beauty and youth, Klein takes us on his Epicurean journey, savouring the moments of insight, the juxtapositions of beautiful descriptions of nature and human nature with philosophical descriptions of ‘lived time’.
I enjoyed this quirky book, slowed down, looked up references to this and that… thought of acquaintances in Greece who, troubled by their country’s misfortunes, contrary to the Hydriotes observed by Klein, have all but forgotten their ‘ataraxia’; have meditated on the notions of austerity vs growth, and their effects on the mind, long enough.
A timely reminder of Epicurean notions then, a needed breath of fresh air? A New Year’s resolution? Even for those who may not be lacking in material resources, but may be short of (perceived) time?
The language in the book is simple, the images memorable, the light clear… So, keep calm, keep thinking, experiencing… it’s not that difficult to be authentically old… one day… eventually! Alternatively, one can always become a Stoic!
full snow moon
the tightrope bathed
You can read the first chapter of this book here
The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus (624 – 546 BC), is credited with the saying,
A sound mind in a sound body,’
pointing to the close relationship between physical exercise, mental equilibrium and the ability to enjoy life. It seems a good incentive to incorporate in the New Year’s resolution to improve our health, whatever the state we are in.
So, partly in the spirit of this, on the 15th of January each year, a global event takes place: Greek Dinner Around the World. The main goal is to celebrate Greek culinary culture, Greek cuisine as it is known in every part of the globe, and promote the people, authors, chefs, businesses who are connected to Greece. Everyone is invited for a Greek dinner with friends and family. Partners to this initiative host a dinner using Greek products and Greek dishes. Afterwards, they share a photo of their endeavors and experiences, and tweet using the hashtags #GreekDinner and #EatGreek.
This year, for the second time, I took part in the global celebration of Greek culinary culture, by sharing a delicious Greek meal with friends and family. And books, of course. We met at Lemonia, the old favourite in Primrose Hill. The food was good – especially the fish, which was a ‘miracle,’ to use a Greek expression – the company excellent, and well, the evening a treat. Only problem: we all ate a little too much. We discovered the limits to Thales’ saying. After a point, the amount of food, and drink, interfere with both mind and body! Which led us to resolve next year to follow another Greek saying: the Aristotelian
Παν μέτρον άριστον, i.e., Everything in moderation
Many thanks to Keri Douglas for her tireless efforts in promoting this event.
και του χρονου
Feeding the Doves (Fruit Dove Press, 2013)
The Heart and Its Reasons (Fruit Dove Press, 2014).
I’ll be taking more pics in the next few days, hopefully with people in them, so watch this space…
The Goodreads giveaway is now closed. Goodreads has announced the three lucky winners of three free, signed copies of my new book: The Heart and Its Reasons (Fruit Dove Press, 2014). I’m happy to say that the winners include two readers from the United States and one from Latvia. Congratulations to the three lucky winners. And many thanks to the 1102 readers who entered the giveaway for a copy of the book.
The names of the three winners can be seen by clicking here
But don’t worry if you missed out! I’ll be holding another Goodreads giveaway in the near future. Several autographed copies will be up to be won.
This is how it works: Find the book in Goodreads here. Scroll down the page, and click the enter to win button there. Goodreads will do the rest! After the 18th of November they will notify me the list of winners and I will post the books directly to the lucky three!
Good luck to all who enter!
The GoodReads giveaway has ended. I’m delighted that 608 readers entered to win a copy of my short story book “Feeding the Doves”! Thank you so much to everyone who entered!
My heartfelt congratulations to the 12 winners! You can see the winners here. I will be posting copies of the book on the 26th of September.
And to everyone else: Thank you so much for participating in the giveaway. If you did not win this time, please know there will be another giveaway in a couple of months’ time. I hope you will try again.
I will keep you posted on other giveaways, discounts, and fun stuff. Meanwhile, if you are interested in Greece, its people and history, the economic and existential crisis it is going through, my Pinterest board “Feeding the Doves” is updated regularly with news, articles, photos, and other related material: click here
the car too
is ready to travel
NaHaiWriMo prompt: garage