AES147 Epicurus and Happiness
Friday October 15 2021, 10:21 PM
AES147 Epicurus and Happiness

Epicurus was an Ancient Greek philosopher that spent his life studying the concept of happiness. He asks the age old question, what really makes us happy? The consumerism driven world we live in now would say, oh that’s easy! Money, fame, recognition and relationships will make you happy. But does it really? Looking around the world, what we can mostly see is widespread dissatisfaction, and a quiet underlying desperation. Hundreds of years ago, Epicurus tried to tackle this issue, let’s see if what he discovered still holds weight even today. 

Epicurus thought that people usually make three common mistakes in trying to be happy. Firstly, he notices that friendships are vastly undervalued compared to romantic relationships. He saw that friendships tend to be free of the sometimes unhealthy expectations and possessiveness that comes with many relationships. Friendship, it seems, is where human nature shines in sweetness and pure innocence. 

The second thing relates to our professional lives. Epicurus discovered that what makes work satisfying is not the amount of money or status we earn from it, but the feeling of helping others, and the sense that we’re making a difference. That we are contributing in our own little ways to improving the world.

Lastly, people in modern times are often obsessed with the idea of luxury, expensive cars, tailor made clothes, fancy houses and gold trimmed furniture. But underneath all this, Epicurus believes that what we’re really trying to achieve in striving for luxury, is to find a feeling of calm and safety. We want to live our lives in peaceful comfort, our minds pure and unbothered by worldly issues and responsibilities that so plague our everyday lives. 

So after learning all of this, Epicurus decided to put everything he learned into practice. He moved into a big house in the countryside with all of his friends. They all had their own rooms and areas, but there’s also common areas where they could gather and enjoy each other’s presence, so there’s always a friend you can talk to around the corner. Epicurus and his friends started focusing on doing their own stuff and contributing to the commune. They took up farming, knitting, writing, cooking, and a myriad of other small, helpful jobs. Sure, they weren’t making large amounts of money like they did with their old jobs, but doing these real and fulfilling things had an immediate effect on the environment around them, and it helps the people they love in a clear way. 

They learned to stop looking outwards hoping for happiness and peacefulness, instead searching for it in themselves instead. Epicurus and his friends did lots of contemplating, meditating, reading, and self-reflection, to find peace and acceptance within their own minds. This experimental commune started by Epicurus was incredibly successful. Even though they lived relatively simple and humble lives, they were incredibly happy and satisfied with every day they went through. Being self-sufficient, having a tight-knit community, contributing your best and helping each other is the key. 

Try and reflect on the moments that truly brought you happiness. For me, true happiness is always found in the quiet and understated moments. Sitting down on the grass to watch a beautiful sunset with a cold drink in hand, having my dog fall asleep in my lap, having a laugh with my friends, when I helped someone in need, and seeing someone I love smile. It’s these moments that always come back to me, not the time where I went on a fancy holiday, or when I bought something expensive for myself. Being aware of what truly makes you happy can make a big difference in how you live your life.