Happy Twentieth! – The Well-Walled Fortress of the Wise

Last Friday I worked my normal 9-to-5 job, after which I worked until after midnight a bartending shift at a wedding that I had accepted some weeks back. I wasn’t crazy about working more than 16 hours, but figured that I had all weekend to recover and that this would help me to pay for my mother’s medical bills. I mentioned her upcoming surgery in the Shakers and Doers Podcast. Today, I’m happy that she is making full recovery and returning to normalcy.

At the end of my shift last Friday, I was exhausted, my feet were in pain, but somehow I was in a great mood. I hadn’t made as much money as I had hoped, but working in a different environment and with fun, young people, plus seeing a young couple get married and their family come together, was a nice break from routine. It also helped my morale that I didn’t have to be there, the money was just an extra bonus. I had chosen a day of greater productivity, and was thankful at the end of the day.

Then I got in the car of the co-worker who drove me home and cheerfully listened to half an hour of vindictive, angry rants about life and about random people that I’ll never meet, including everything from legal entanglements to vehicle repair, at the end of which I wasn’t sure what to say other than “Well, you do not seem to need lawyers to defend you. You have fangs and claws of your own for that!”. He vehemently agreed and we said our good-byes.

I sensed a serious disturbance in the Force. I’m not a Jedi yet, and my life is far from perfect, but it’s eye-opening to meet people who so easily create and attract so much evil and intrigue around them. It’s almost like they’re magnets for it. I was reminded of a portion of Rhetorica where Philodemus of Gadara warns his pupils about lawyers and, specifically, about “the kind of people who live life in constant litigation”.

I was also reminded of Lucretius’ “fortress of the wise” passage. Not that I claim to be wise, but I would like to think that Epicurus and the others who came before us built these fortresses for us, and that in some way these well-walled fortresses of the wise protect us from living a bad life, not just by our taking refuge in and practicing Epicurean doctrine, but specifically by our commitment to training ourselves to not postpone happiness. This may seem like nothing more than a mere act of yay-saying to life, but I believe that if we seriously commit ourselves to not postponing pleasure, over the course of time this does change our attitude and our ability to enjoy even the little things. We may live another week, another month, four years, or twenty more years of life, but in the end in all cases the only thing that will have mattered is that we lived well and happy.

Below is the Lucretius passage. Cheers!

Tis sweet, when, down the mighty main, the winds
Roll up its waste of waters, from the land
To watch another’s labouring anguish far,
Not that we joyously delight that man
Should thus be smitten, but because ’tis sweet
To mark what evils we ourselves be spared;
‘Tis sweet, again, to view the mighty strife
Of armies embattled yonder o’er the plains,
Ourselves no sharers in the peril; but naught
There is more goodly than to hold the high
Serene plateaus, well fortressed by the wise,
Whence thou may’st look below on other men
And see them ev’rywhere wand’ring, all dispersed
In their lone seeking for the road of life;
Rivals in genius, or emulous in rank,
Pressing through days and nights with hugest toil
For summits of power and mastery of the world.
O wretched minds of men! O blinded hearts!
In how great perils, in what darks of life
Are spent the human years, however brief!-
O not to see that Nature for herself
Barks after nothing, save that pain keep off,
Disjoined from the body, and that mind enjoy
Delightsome feeling, far from care and fear!
Therefore we see that our corporeal life
Needs little, altogether, and only such
As takes the pain away, and can besides
Strew underneath some number of delights.

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014), 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and Epicurus of Samos – His Philosophy and Life: All the principal Classical texts Compiled and Introduced by Hiram Crespo (Ukemi Audiobooks, 2020). He's the founder of societyofepicurus.com, and has written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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7 Responses to Happy Twentieth! – The Well-Walled Fortress of the Wise

  1. Pingback: Happy Twentieth! In Defense of Pleasure | The Autarkist

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