According to Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, we humans feel much of our pain needlessly, inflicting it upon ourselves.
The words of Epicurus bring comfort and logic to a world that has become unhinged.
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Look around at what you have. There was a time they didn’t exist. Your children, friends, spouse and possessions are here to be treasured, valued and appreciated. Today, we think so much about what’s wrong. Frustration seeps into each day because of what we do not have. But feeling gratitude for the good in our lives is key to a more permanent peace and contentment.
“The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it.”
Ask most people how they’re doing and they’ll tell you how hard life is and how busy they are. They lament their struggles. But challenges are what make life interesting and indeed, worth fighting for. Without issues and problems, life’s victories would be absent. Shock others by saying: I have problems and I love it.
“Misfortune seldom intrudes upon the wise man; his greatest and highest interests are directed by reason throughout the course of life.”
Here, Epicurus is telling us that the thing we should value the most is our own thoughts – the ability to shape our universe. The story goes that Epicurus suffered great pain in his older years, suffering from kidney stones. But he wrote a letter saying he was happy on the last day of his life. In his words: “The cheerfulness of my mind comes from the recollection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalancing all these afflictions.” Amazingly, he was saying that his fond memories of everything he had done was wiping out physical pain.
“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.”
Have you ever prayed for something to happen? Often, we want God or fate to intervene, when in fact, we have the power. We underestimate ourselves badly in this insecure, threatening world. Pray that God will give you the strength to do what you must. Take back the power God gave you in the first place.
“Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”
This is an amazing statement because it draws attention to what really matters – enjoyment in life. Many of us struggle to obtain things, or achieve certain goals – without really knowing if they’ll bring joy to us and others. Something as simple as spending time with someone we like can bring far more lasting fulfillment than any new gadget.
“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.”
Epicurus wanted to take away the fear of death because he believed it was preventing people from living. He pinpointed fear, not only of death, but of all things, as the true source of pain in our lives. Remove fear and you remove much of the pain – both mental, and even physical, which stems from the stress resulting from fear and worry.
The key to a satisfying life, preached Epicurus, is to ensure that we not deliberately do harm to others.
Today, in a world full of hate and war, the opposite is happening – and sure enough – as Epicurus predicted, happiness is in short supply.
To be happy is to not wish harm upon others – what Epicurus called, living “justly.”
Only three letters written by Epicurus have survived the ages fully intact. Other writings have been found in bits and pieces.