Online check-in is a process which should genuinely increase the efficiency of the airport experience, thereby costing you less time. But what the airlines do is employ so few people to supervise the bag drop-off that there’s no time-saving at all for the customer. Because airlines have to employ more people to supervise the non-online-checked-in customers – otherwise the planes wouldn’t leave on time – the non-checked-in queues move far more quickly. They’re transferring their inefficiency to the customer, but what they’re also doing is transferring the labour to you and accumulating the surplus value themselves. (John Lanchester, London Review of Books , 2/29.12)
Bravo! Precisely. And this is happening in all types of business, not just the airline business. So what does a sensible person do? He/she goes into the garden, has a nice long chat with a friend, does some planting and watering at this time of the year, and maybe, if super-sensible, he/she stays at home and avoids air travel. This is the true Epicurean way. Unfortunately, no one can totally avoid the ruthless big company – but we can all try.
Pat Robertson claims that the tornadoes in the mid-West of the US may not have happened if people had prayed for divine intervention, “If enough people were praying He would’ve intervened. You could pray. Jesus stilled the storm. You can still storms.” He also told people who live in areas prone to natural disasters that it’s “their fault, not God’s.”
Of course he is partly right. The increase in natural disasters is due you CO2 emissions and human activity. But of course Mr. Robertson doesn’t believe in that. The determined hostility towards science on the part of the self-proclaimed “Christians” in large swathes of America is hastening the decline of the Unites States into a know-nothing country of gun-toting ignoramuses. And they don’t care.
Epicureans believe in science and ordered, researched discovery. Epicureanism is a rational, positive way of life that doesn’t blame a supernatural being for the unpredictability of Nature or for things caused by the greed and stupidity of mankind.
Pray as much as you like, but the ice cap is melting and there are better ways of dealing with it than on your knees.
Bart Centre, a retired gentleman in New Hampshire, started a service for Rapture Ready people with pets called Eternal-Earthbound-Pets.com . For $135 he would look after pets stranded when their owners are whisked up to heaven to sit on the right hand of Jesus. Unfortunately, Bart ran foul of the local Insurance Department, who wanted to know if he was operating an unlicensed insurance business. What started as a joke got somewhat serious.
Actually, he was running a hoax as the expense of the gullible, but a sense of humor is not something that is universally common. Government employees are carefully screened, especially at airports, to make sure they are in no way tainted by a spirit of fun or high spirits. Believers in the Rapture are likewise not known for any smidgeon of humor.
I applaud Bart, but I think the lesson is: don’t try to take money off these people. Do anything else, but don’t take their blessed money from them. This is what matters to them.
Epicurus looks as if he was a jolly fellow who enjoyed a joke. Just look at his bust (above). He would not have approved of Bart; Epicurus believed in living and letting live and would not have indulged in practical jokes at the expense of others.
If you are at all curious about Epicurus, Lucretius, or even philosophy in general, then I strongly recommend that you should read “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern” by Professor Greenblatt of Harvard University. It is not long, not a philosophy lecture, and is very well written and very interesting historically. Professor Greenblatt is a Shakespeare scholar, and his immersion in Shakespeare seems to have had its effect on his writing.
The book has been criticized for ignoring the science that emerged before the 15th Century, but that seems to miss the point (excuse me, critics!). The point is that De rerum natura by Lucretius changed the way that educated, book-reading elites of the Renaissance and thereafter thought of the world and the message of the Church, and encouraged the search for facts and truth. It does not take away anything from the early scientists, like Bacon.
Small excerpt from words of Dvorak’s “Stabat Mater” (truly wonderful music!), written by a 13th Century monk:
Fac me plagis vulnerari,
Cruce hac inebriari ob amorem Filii.
To translate for the non-Latinists:
Let me be wounded with his wounds,
Let me be inebriated by the cross and your Son’s blood.
The whole work is along these lines, gratifyingly in Latin. It needs no lengthy comment, except to say that Epicureanism is a happy, positive way of life, with love and laughter and no self-flagellation. It stands for moderation, kindness, good manners, thoughtfulness for others, empathy and good company. It has been painted as an empty void. No! It is the smiling face of modern humanism.
Although branded an atheist by the usual suspects, Epicurus did believe in the gods. However, he also believed that they ignored the doings of mankind. They sat there on Mount Olympus squabbling among themselves or seducing one another (whatever). and thought men on earth not worth their consideration. Good plan. It would have been hard work.
And as far as I know they are still there, although the current Greek troubles may have persuaded them to relocate from Mount Olympus. One could speculate that Ares, god of war and armaments might by now have modernized his bow and arrow. He must be quite pleased about the never-ending wars currently proceeding. On the other hand, Hera, protector of marriage, must be wringing her hands in dismay. Likewise, Artemis, goddess of chastity. But neither goddess seems to be able to do much about it. And no doubt Aphrodite is having her hair permed as we speak.
So they are not much of a powerful lot, although recent geophysical eruptions around the world and pillars of fire etc. in the American mid-West do make one wonder if Zeus is sending us some sort of message. (Cue for wiser persons than me to tell us what it is).
So the hands-off approach of nearly all recorded gods (none excluded) seem to suggest that Epicurus knew more than the hordes of muftis, mullahs, swamis, priests, popes, vicars etc that have assumed positions of leadership in our society over centuries.
If I am wrong, please send a thunderbolt.
“Seek pleasure and avoid pain” is one of the chief teachings of Epicurus, twisted ruthlessly by his philosopher rivals and later by the Christian church when it had achieved temporal power. Epicurus believed in modest living – having sufficient security and sufficient pleasure, but never too much. He was accused of having orgies and living riotously. If having a bowl of lentil soup and a philosophic chat with a person of the female persuasion is living riotously, then the accusations were wholly correct. The truth is that he hated all extremes of behavior. By seeking pleasure he meant spending time with friends in the Garden, eating and drinking modestly, and avoiding disagreeable people. These included the rude and vulgar, the violent, the bullies and extremists of all stripes, those set upon power, fame and putting other people down, and those lusting after too much money, and too much sex and too many possessions. Can apologists for Christian churches truthfully deny that this is a rather sensible philosophy? Please comment!
I stand accused of straying into current affairs too much on this blog. However, were he alive today I have a suspicion that he would be appalled at the antics of the bankers and the super-rich and the pell-mell fraying of the social consensus.
Epicurus believed that war and conquest invariably bring with them unexpected consequences. While nations wage war in the name of “security”, very often everything is going to hell (so to speak) in a handbasket at home. Epicurus was against wars, especially those of choice. Often they are promoted by those with an agenda. He didn’t mention this agenda because in his days a soldier had only a sword or a spear, armour and maybe a horse, but today (were he alive) he would no doubt point to the war profiteers who have a vested interest in more and more armaments , and having them used, of course (they wouldn’t go into the field of battle themselves, oh no!).
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, is leaving. At 61. A church leader is actually retiring and not dying on the job, and at a time of life which I consider middle-aged! Popes have to die or be assassinated.
Secondly, the subtext is that he has had enough of the politics and nastiness in the Anglican community over acceptance of homosexuality and the ordination of women. Williams, an academic, seems a nice, gentle sort of fellow, who will be nicely at home in a Cambridge college. He calls the Pope his “friend”, a friend who has made a takeover bid for right-wing Anglicans to cross over to the true church. Who needs “friends” like that, or the neanderthal attitudes and back-biting from his “flock”? Sensible man.
The relationship of this to Epicureanism? Epicureans believe in living, loving and letting live. They have no problems with people who were born with this or that sexual orientation, and were they interested in having priests to tell them what to think (which they are not), they would welcome a female perspective.
This is my own take-over bid to match Mr. Benedict in Rome! Think for yourself and be an Epicurean. You don’t have to join anything, pay anything, listen to threats of the hereafter, just live happily, modestly and without fear. This is the only philosophical or religious group not after your money!
God has apparently given us humans the ability to think for ourselves and to work out what seems reasonable and sensible and what seems not. If this is the case what is the justification for religious dogma? Or, to put it another way, why are Roman Catholics told that if they do not follow the decisions of the infallible Pope they are at the very least committing a mortal sin and be consigned to hellfire in the life hereafter? Either we are free to make our own decisions or we are not.
If there is a God who knows our every thought and who has designed us as we are, why does he seem inconsistent and muddled on this matter? I am very confused. Would a Catholic solidly versed in dogma and the right way of thinking please explain?
This is not a Jesuitical debating point - I really want to know.
Lucretius, reflecting the views of Epicurus, tells us that fear of death and overarching ambition are the things that make humans unhappy. I would add plotting, planning, getting jealous, scoring points and putting people down to that list. Lucretius encourages us to enjoy the wonders of the universe and the natural things before our eyes, the beauty and fecundity of the Earth and the huge variety of trees, flowers, and animals, all adapted to their environment. And all, he says composed of atoms, morphing, grouping and re-grouping endlessly over eons of time, indestructible. We mortals are collections of atoms and on death will revert to atoms.
Epicurus was an unusual philosopher. He genuinely believed in equality, unlike people like Plato. A lot is talked about Athenian democracy, but that democracy excluded slaves and women. Epicurus caused a scandal by accepting into his Garden both slaves and women and apparently treated them as equals, respecting their views. This was unheard of. Still is in many parts of the world.
Early Christianity, which had a high proportion of women members, some very influential, rather liked Epicureanism for its concentration on inclusiveness, kindness and toleration. Only when Christianity became the state religion did the good ole boys take control (the emphasis is on “control”), and female participation in the church was clamped down on (absolutely no women priests). Then the inclusion of women in the Epicurean Garden came to be interpreted as tantamount to organising sex orgies, over-eating and wine-swilling. This was how we now have catering companies calling themselves “Epicurean” this or that. The calumny continues.
The fact is that Epicureans believed in moderation in everything, including food, wine and sex. Thus have decent people been the subject of malicious propaganda over the ages.
They peddle fear here.
They peddle fear of terrorists and sudden death.
They peddle fear of rapists and of angry drivers.
They peddle fear of government and paying tax,
Of deer ticks, butter, sugar, fat, untested drugs;
Of unknown visitors and men in turbans;
Of invasion war and sudden death;
Of gunmen holding up cashiers;
Of bombs in culverts, school kids murdering with guns.
They peddle inquietude, nervousness, distrust;
And to the terrified, apprehensive, cowed,
They preach damnation, hellfire in the after-life.
The more they frighten us the more it gains the vote,
And the opinion-makers drivel on in biased turpitude,
Yapping in support of party, church and power.
Command, empire, sway, rule, dominion, supremacy
All depend on mongering fear and bald mendacity.
But then there is Epicurus,
His character assassinated by the church,
Maligned, misrepresented, damned by rote!
He only sought a tranquil mind, a life of peace,
Fearing nothing. For fear, he said, brings pain.
And politics? Striving, ambition, restlessness.
There are no active gods, said he, no afterlife,
No spirit out there, evil or benign,
Rewarding, punishing, damning you to hell.
No trumpets, choirs, or seats of the almighty.
Just atoms, molecules, and, in them, everlasting life.
No devils, angels, harps, or golden cities;
No god resembling, oh! coincidence!, a man.
No omniscient god who reads your thoughts,
Or manages the minutiae of your life.
Your life, indeed! Your life it is, subject to fortune,
Tribulations, ups and downs, but in the end, just yours.
Try not to chafe and fret, but seek a mental peace.
Pursue the arts, activities you love.
Don’t worry over things you can’t affect.
Seek simple pleasures, food, and friends.
Forsake consumerism, shops, and malls,
Buying only what you really need.
Do no harm. Mend fences where required.
Cultivate your garden and your friends.
Or get a dog.
All to be done in moderation and with joie de vivre,
For simple pleasures trump all wild excess.
Be fun, be smiling, for life is to be lived - -
What follows after lasts a long, long time!
Should some abuse you as an atheist,
Remember! It’s a propaganda word – - and just a word,
Spoken by people with their own agenda.
Read Epicurus! Till your garden, walk that dog.
Enjoy Nature while we have it still.
Reject all superstition, think for yourself.
Believe not the religious memes of modern life.
Be gentle, thoughtful and ask yourself – -
Why do they peddle fear here?
Contrary to popular belief, an excessive income brings with it dissatisfaction, not pleasure.
Epicurus told us that a wise man aims to make enough money to live peaceably, with a full stomach and with minimal stress. Things of the mind are more important than the bank balance.
Think of those bankers and CEOs who pocket millions a year. They cannot possibly spend it all. Instead they have to find somewhere to stash it. That’s hard enough to do once they have 3 homes on three Continents and a yacht with a crew of six. But when they’ve “invested” it they are constantly worrying about its security, the return on investment, is someone robbing them? Once the money is out of sight you have to be concerned about the Madoffs of this world, of governments coming after your illegal fortune in some Caribbean offshore account, of fraudsters and criminal gangs.
People are always talking in the US about trickle down and the importance of investment by the super-rich, if only we could give them a better tax break. Excuse me, but the super-rich don’t care any more about the US and Europe, tax break or no. They are investing in China, India and Brazil. And thereby hangs a tale. Because you might make a bomb in India, but it’s just as likely that someone makes off with your cash. The Indian stock market is like a big dipper at a funfair. The stress!
Rich people never have enough money. There is always someone richer than you. “You cannot be too rich or too thin.” Remember? And then you look at the children of these multimillionaires, spoiled, unmotivated and chased for friendship and sex because of their money. None of these youngsters or their parents can be truly sure who are friends and who are on the make. Epicurus was right – these people end up bitterly unhappy.
Epicurus believed that everything is made up of invisible particles that are in constant motion, clashing with one another, coalescing, falling apart and decaying. These particles , or atoms, are indestructible and immortal. The forms they coalesce into are temporary, but the constituent parts are eternal.
This idea became increasingly accepted from the 17th century onwards. However, Epicurus and the poet Lucretius may have laid the foundations of what became modern science, but their actual scientific knowledge was necessarily rudimentary.
Nowadays scientists refer to the Wave Structure of Matter. This posits that matter in the universe moves in waves in a constant two-way communication of knowledge. Every wave center particle is vibrating and communicating with all other matter in the universe, with continual feedback occurring.
Now I would call this a refinement of what Epicurus and Lucretius were describing, based upon three centuries of modern science. Pretty smart of the old philosopher, I reckon.
Are there any professional scientists out there who can elaborate on this?
After three centuries of competing ideas about what the new Christianity was about, the “Fathers” of the church ? (there were no mothers admitted) got together and constructed a mishmash of bits and pieces taken from other cults and beliefs and told the world “This is Christianity. This is what to believe. Argue at your peril”. For centuries after that dissidents tried to inject precepts they thought Jesus would have approved of, but these dissidents were promptly excommunicated or burnt at the stake. Christianity, as taught by the current Catholic hierarchy, is all about control. If you wish to believe what the Vatican tells you, that is your privilege. The rest of us prefer to think for ourselves, but, unlike others, tolerate the beliefs of others!
There was no single moment of creation, but a gradual evolution, with many false starts and dead ends. Various tools were added to help species survive. Eyes are a good example. But survival is not a foregone conclusion. Many species have been and gone, and maybe we are in self-destruct mode ourselves owing to selfishness, greed and the passion for power. When we are history other species will take our place. The bonobos?
Epicurus taught that there was no intelligent design. The particles that make up the universe, you, me, the animals and the trees, have not been put together by an unseen hand, but are made up of myriads of atoms that over eons of time have coalesced or broken apart by accident. That we have stars and planets is the result of chance and experimentation over lengths of time hard to imagine by human beings.
Every year that goes by shows that nature can be explained by science, not the tales invented centuries ago by primitive man. Soon we will have, in all likelihood, an answer to the issue of the Higgs Boson and take another step towards understanding the universe. That is, if we want to understand it!