Epicurean Bible Verses

Anyone who is among the living has hope
—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even their name is forgotten.
Their love, their hate
and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
in anything that happens under the sun.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,
for in the realm of the dead, where you are going,
there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:4-6, 10-11

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Happy Twentieth: Woodland Aborigines Invent Music and Dance

Grandfather Nietzsche said that he could never worship–or even trust–a god that didn’t dance. Dance implies letting go, losing our inhibitions and releasing tension, being free. We regain our innocence, in some way, when we dance. Because of its trance-inducing powers, music also has the ability to help us regulate our moods. In Zarathustra, Nietzsche paints dance and laughter with the same stroke: they are no less than holy.

But how was dance invented? In the fifth chapter of On the Nature of Things, Lucretius narrates how he imagined primitive humans invented music, musical instruments, and later dance.

  But by the mouth
To imitate the liquid notes of birds
Was earlier far ‘mongst men than power to make,
By measured song, melodious verse and give
Delight to ears. And whistlings of the wind
Athrough the hollows of the reeds first taught
The peasantry to blow into the stalks
Of hollow hemlock-herb. Then bit by bit
They learned sweet plainings, such as pipe out-pours,
Beaten by finger-tips of singing men,
When heard through unpathed groves and forest deeps
And woodsy meadows, through the untrod haunts
Of shepherd folk and spots divinely still.
Thus time draws forward each and everything
Little by little unto the midst of men,
And reason uplifts it to the shores of light.
These tunes would soothe and glad the minds of mortals
When sated with food,- for songs are welcome then.
And often, lounging with friends in the soft grass
Beside a river of water, underneath
A big tree’s branches, merrily they’d refresh
Their frames, with no vast outlay- most of all
If the weather were smiling and the times of the year
Were painting the green of the grass around with flowers.
Then jokes, then talk, then peals of jollity
Would circle round; for then the rustic muse
Was in her glory; then would antic Mirth
Prompt them to garland head and shoulders about
With chaplets of intertwined flowers and leaves,
And to dance onward, out of tune, with limbs
Clownishly swaying, and with clownish foot
To beat our mother earth- from whence arose
Laughter and peals of jollity, for, lo,
Such frolic acts were in their glory then,
Being more new and strange. And wakeful men
Found solaces for their unsleeping hours
In drawing forth variety of notes,
In modulating melodies, in running
With puckered lips along the tuned reeds,
Whence, even in our day do the watchmen guard
These old traditions, and have learned well
To keep true measure. And yet they no whit
Do get a larger fruit of gladsomeness
Than got the woodland aborigines
In olden times.

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Humanist Values and the Olympics

The Olympics remind us every four years how resilience, discipline, goal-setting, confidence, and other wholesome human values can pay off. It makes sense that these kinds of games were an important part of humanist culture in antiquity in almost every Greek city: they certainly help to promote good human values in young people.

But recent events concerning enmity between certain countries (the usual suspects) also highlight the general view that the Olympics are a time for healthy and friendly competition, even camaraderie, between opponents, as opposed to the immature behavior we saw this year when Egypt’s wrestler El Shehaby refused to shake his opponent’s hand after losing to an Israeli. He later refused to apologize.

This is not the first time an Egyptian wrestler misbehaves on the ring with an Israeli wrestler. In 2013 the female wrestler Enas Mostafa, also of Egypt, was also suspended from the Olympics after she bit her Israeli opponent and made her bleed during their fight.

The Olympic Committee is right to treat these athletes as the sore losers that they are. If these international games were really the type of stage where their brand of old, stale, brutal, fanatical hatred is to be acted out and celebrated, they would be barbaric and would not be worth watching or supporting in any way. The Olympics are a celebration of human prowess and ability to thrive, but they’re also stages for ladies and for gentlemen. Not everyone deserves a chance to be an Olympian.

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Birth of an Olympian Hero

22-year-old momnicaTennis player Monica Puig, only moments ago, secured the gold medal in Rio after an amazing and unexpected rise from being among the top forty players in the world (her rank among women players was 34 prior to Rio 2016) and beating opponents who were both older and physically stronger than she was.

Some of them, like her Spanish opponent Muguruza a few games back, went on record expressing bewilderment at her game, her strategy, and her tenacity.

But it seems to me like the most important beneficiaries of her legacy, young as she is, are the young girls everywhere who may have never considered a career in sports, and who now will have this example of tireless discipline, education, and hard work to inspire them. I’ve been reading about her story for the last few days: a combination of sports training and attitude training. Her story has just begun.


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Jonathan-Antonio-Camuy-Vega-24Today I would like to honor the memory of another one of the Pulse victims. 24-year-old Jonathan Camuy worked for Telemundo, a Spanish-language channel, where he worked in La Voz Kids, and was known by many celebrities. In all his pictures, he always wore a smile, and his funeral was held on the date of what would have been his birthday. He is memorialized in these two youtube videos.

In one tweet from back in November which went viral after he died, he expressed what seems like an Epicurean philosophy of life. Using the hashtag #PorqueLaVidaEsUna (=Because There’s Only One Life), he expressed how important it is to enjoy each moment.

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Cyrenaic Reasonings V: an Aesthetic Education

While discussing the literature of Walter Pater, Kurt Lampe argues that the function of (rational hedonistic) philosophy is “to remove impediments to the purest and most immediate reception of … experiences”.

Here, as I discussed in Tending the Garden, philosophy (literally, “love of wisdom”) is not only a love of rational pursuits and of acquiring knowledge, but is expanded to infer a love of experiences, of knowing what certain things feel like and of directly knowing the nuances of living in this world. In my book, I cite how in the Bible knowing someone has a specifically sexual meaning and connotes that lovers taste and feel a certain way and clearly goes beyond blending of minds, and I also cite how we can know an apple only by tasting and eating one. This is not the same as identifying that a round, red fruit is called an apple. THIS other way of knowing is hedonistic, direct, real, and it’s a kind of knowledge the enjoyment of which we can educate ourselves to maximize.

Two observations can be made here. The first one takes us back to the Epicurean canon, and how reason is excluded from it. Many explanations for this are given in the writings, but here we can discern another one: reason can be seen as obstructing the immediacy of experience and creating distance between us and direct experience, whether sensual or relational. If reason distances us from an experience, then whatever pleasure is available to us in that experience is in danger of being Platonized and not directly enjoyed.

Therefore, reason is a tool that leads to certain intellectual pleasures and that can help us in the economy (oikonomia) of pleasure: the management of pleasure and pain in our choices and avoidances, the measurement of which started with the Cyrenaics. But reason can elsewhere impede a life of pleasure. Its place in our hedonic regimen is therefore limited and very specific.

Another observation, one which is made by Lampe, is on connoisseurship and how it may sometimes have the power to make things more enjoyable. Ergo, training or education in certain arts of enjoyment can serve to amplify our pleasure. A curriculum of hedonistic education then becomes possible, one which allows us to acquire greater adaptability and versatility to enjoy the simple pleasures that nature has to offer.

The author speaks of this in terms of “the wider music”, which includes ritual and other forms of art that, like music, have the power to inspire and produce rapture. His examples include wine or cheese tasting, learning music or art appreciation, and other forms of enjoyment of things available for consumption.

Aristippus included “speaking well” as part of the necessary education of a philosopher, as it secures more respect and creates greater confidence, and all of this enhances a life that is pleasant. The value of education is, here, accurately measured in terms of hedons and dolons (units of pleasure added, or of pain removed)

Notice the beautifully pragmatic art of living (techne biou, in Greek) that is being described here. We’ve come full circle and return to the beginning of our Cyrenaic reasonings, where we noted that the founder of this tradition argued that one of the things that philosophy did for him was to make him more adaptable. We said that he would “put less faith in his ability to control what happens in the future than in his ability to adapt to it”.

Some Closing Notes on Michel Onfray

Before we end our Cyrenaic Reasonings, there is one modern intellectual that Lampe discusses who deserves our attention. He is not known for making original contributions to philosophy, but does deserve credit for beautifully and intelligently synthesizing the ideas of many who came before him.

Michel Onfray understood the value of what is being said here when he founded the Université Populaire de Caen in order to teach his counter-history of philosophy. It is within this context that he echoed Nietzsche’s declaration that “art has more value than truth”. Perhaps what he meant by this was that, although truth is irresistible, art is heroic, creative, it dances, it moves us and frees us. Nietzsche’s influence can also be seen in Onfray’s artistic conception of self-creation and exercise of will: he speaks of sculpting the Self.

The rivers of thought of Grandfathers Nietzsche and Freud also meet and become a single current in Onfray’s insistence that “the repressed body produces civilization”. This is indeed one of the implied results of Epicurus’ doctrine of the materialist, “atomic” soul as the neural system entirely embedded within the body and inseparable from it. The nature of the psyche (Greek word for soul) can only be discerned and studied as an emergent, physical property. The following two Onfray quotes conclude our reasonings:

The ocean we must cross? Idealist philosophy in its triple form: Platonic, Christian, and German.

… Tension occupies the flesh for a long time. The body is a strange place where influxes and intuitions, energies and forces circulate. Sometimes the resolution of conflicts and mysteries, the solutions for deflecting shadows and confusions appear in a moment of exceptional density, which opens a gap in existence and inaugurates a perspective rich in possibilities. So the body of a philosopher presents itself as a crucible where existential experiences are developed, and later called to take form in logical and rigorous structures.

Finally, a quote from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra:

Once the soul looked contemptuously on the body, and then that
contempt was the supreme thing:- the soul wished the body meagre, ghastly, and famished. Thus it thought to escape from the body and the earth.
Oh, that soul was itself meagre, ghastly, and famished; and
cruelty was the delight of that soul!
But ye, also, my brethren, tell me: What doth your body say about your soul? Is your soul not poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency?

This is the conclusion of the Cyrenaic Reasonings. Onfray says that Cyrene–the cradle of hedonism–is a “philosophical Atlantis”, and after studying and writing these reasonings, I’m obliged to concur. I invite all my readers to add to the vitality of this intellectual tradition by sharing, liking, commenting, and elaborating on these reasonings.


The Cyrenaic Reasonings were based on the highly-recommended book by Kurt Lampe titled The Birth of Hedonism.

Hedonic Educational Documentaries:

Soba Tradition in Japan: Includes Soba Eating and Appreciation Tips (Also see the Matcha Tea Episode)

Cigar Appreciation 101

Wine Tasting 101; Wine Simplified; How To Taste Wine

Whiskey and Bourbon Review Channels: Ralfy Stuff, Liquor Hound, Whiskey Jug, Bourbon Brothers

Yerba Maté: History, Brewing Basics; How To Make

Xavier Hawk on How to Make Kava

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Cyrenaic Reasonings IV: Walter Pater’s Neo-Cyrenaic Philosophy

In his book, Kurt Lampe discusses Walter Pater’s literature. Walter is the author of Marius the Epicurean, and also an advocate of naturalist and hedonistic philosophy that focuses on aesthetics as a way to capture and live life in the moment. He also calls for a revolution against habit and in favor of raw, authentic living in the moment. The following quote specifically encapsulates Pater’s philosophical musings.

The service of philosophy … is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. … Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life … How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?

To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.

The theory or idea or system which requires of us the sacrifice of any part of this experience, in consideration of some interest into which we cannot enter, or some abstract theory we have not identified with ourselves, or of what is only conventional, has no real claim upon us.

Notice the vindication of that quintessential Cyrenaic practice: presentism. Being here now is required for this direct and attentive experience of life. It was perhaps from Pater that Michel Onfray took to talking in terms of pulsations in his French literature–notably, in his Sculpture de soi.

This presentism proposed by the original Cyrenaics was discussed as monokhronos hedone (“pleasure of a single time”) in Lampe’s book, and it has its merits, although later Epicureans refute this presentism not because it’s a bad practice, but because it needlessly excludes the remembrance of past pleasures and the expectation of future ones as another legitimate practice of abiding in pleasure. In other words, it is one thing to anchor our pleasure in the moment, it is another one to limit our pleasure to the moment only.


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