Monday, February 25, 2013

How can we define peace?

“I cannot define my satisfaction, yet, it is so. I cannot define my life, yet, it is so. Is there any gift greater than this joy? Can the soul offer a prayer more perfect than this tender silence?”

Vincent, Beauty and the Beast, Season 2 Ep. 11 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Epicurus' Pleasure

"My lipgloss has real gold particles in it."
"Yeah, well mine has platinum, baby!"

"I drive an Aston Martin and eat caviar by the pound."
"Yeah, well I have a Bugatti Veyron, I own my own island, drink five cups of Kopi Luwak coffee every day, and my personal chef puts shaved white truffle on my scrambled mushroom eggs every morning!"

This doesn't sound like a too terrifyingly familiar argument does it? Look at any celebrity magazine for the rich and famous or read an epicurean magazine and there ya go, word for word.  It's always a game of one-upmanship in who has and who has less.

The Epicurean philosophy is relegated to exotic food/wine/luxury items in today's age of snobbery-by-wearing-certain-labels. It's an act of desperation by those who have(or pretend to have) material wealth when all they really want is attention. But if anyone worth anything at all paid attention to them... what would that person have to say? Would there be silence, awkward stuttering, or just more talk about what that person has or plans to have in the future? Maybe a house of mirrors would be a more fitting present than more trinkets from chic boutiques on Rodeo Drive and Fifth Avenue. 

Epicurus(341 BCE – 270 BCE, Greece) states that this notion of material neediness and showiness is the precise opposite of what he had in mind.
"On the contrary, it(pleasure) is the result of sober thinking-- namely, investigation of the reasons for every act of choice and aversion and elimination of those false ideas about the gods and death which are the chief source of mental disturbances."

Epicurus runs afoul of the hedonistic belief system in this regard. The distressing thing about this is that the two have been entangled together so thoroughly throughout the centuries that we've  forgotten it's base meaning. The core of Epicurean pleasure is derived from personal discernment in our personal evolution, and I believe that in a gnostic fashion this leads to good common sense. Sanity, moderation, and careful deliberation is epicurean in nature. 
"Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little."
Gnostics of all levels of learning and branches of belief can appreciate his philosophy that the absence of pain is worth striving for in this life and beyond. We cannot escape some forms of pain and sometimes that same pain is the very catalyst we need to progress, but ultimately pleasure comes from doing good and being good.

Hedonistic self indulgence can only teach us so much. In the end, gnostics swerve, sometimes wildly, between aestheticism and gluttony. I've asked myself why this is for years now. The only real answer I can come up with is that it is part of our personal evolution. We learn by stumbling and soaring, equally. Epicurus might cluck his tongue at our need for intense physical pleasure at times but we recognize it for what it is-- we're living life to it's fullest. Sometimes we have to exist in utter sated bliss to remind ourselves that this is indeed what we have to look forward to when we ascend, in contrast to the pain and misery we witness every day. The All is just that- bliss. Pleasure is the height of that bliss although he is more moderate and contemplative at times. He is, as always, our model. He goes through cycles just as we do.

When we move in him we understand not just ourselves but the universe.