Sweetness and the Joy of Life

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers: Epicurus 125-6

“Just as people choose not just the greater amount of food but the better quality, so too they enjoy the amount of time not for being the longest but for its sweetness. The person who orders the young to live happily and the old to make a good end of it is simple-minded not just because of the joy life brings but also because the same worry should teach one to live well and die well.

Even worse is someone [like Theognis] who says that it is good not to be born and “if born to cross Hades’ threshold as fast as possible” [425/427]. If he says what he believes, why doesn’t he stop living? There are methods at the ready for him, if he is so firm in his conviction. If he speaks in jest, he speaks pointlessly for those who do not trust him.”

ὥσπερ δὲ τὸ σιτίον οὐ τὸ πλεῖον πάντως ἀλλὰ τὸ ἥδιστον αἱρεῖται, οὕτω καὶ χρόνον οὐ τὸν μήκιστον ἀλλὰ τὸν ἥδιστον καρπίζεται. ὁ δὲ παραγγέλλων τὸν μὲν νέον καλῶς ζῆν, τὸν δὲ γέροντα καλῶς καταστρέφειν εὐήθης ἐστὶν οὐ μόνον διὰ τὸ τῆς ζωῆς ἀσπαστόν, ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τὸ τὴν αὐτὴν εἶναι μελέτην τοῦ καλῶς ζῆν καὶ τοῦ καλῶς ἀποθνήσκειν. πολὺ δὲ χεῖρον καὶ ὁ λέγων, καλὸν μὲν μὴ φῦναι, “φύντα δ᾿ ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας Ἀΐδαο περῆσαι”
εἰ μὲν γὰρ πεποιθὼς τοῦτό φησι, πῶς οὐκ ἀπέρχεται τοῦ ζῆν; ἐν ἑτοίμῳ γὰρ αὐτῷ τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν, εἴπερ ἦν βεβουλευμένον αὐτῷ βεβαίως· εἰ δὲ μωκώμενος, μάταιος ἐν τοῖς οὐκ ἐπιδεχομένοις.

Our man with a plan

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