Happy Twentieth to everyone! This month, my essay An Epicurean Guide to Living More Pleasantly in Times of Coronavirus was featured in May-June issue of The Humanist magazine, a publication of the American Humanist Association. The May-June issue is titled Philosophy in a Time of Pandemic, and it includes five essays–four by contributors to the book How to Live a Good Life–applying Stoicism, Ethical Culture, Epicureanism, and secular humanism to life in the time of a deadly pandemic. Please read, enjoy, comment, and share the essay!
Also I had the pleasure of participating in the limited edition video discussions How to Live a Good a life, Episode 3: Stoicism and Epicureanism with Massimo Pigliucci, who authored the Stoicism chapter.
The audiobook Epicurus of Samos: His Philosophy and Life – All the Principal Source Texts compiled and introduced by Hiram Crespo is available for pre-order through Audible. Working on this project for Ukemi Audiobooks was an absolute pleasure! I became re-acquainted with many details in Laertius’ biography of Epicurus that are frequently ignored and Seneca’s numerous reports about what life was like in the early Garden, and gained a deeper familiarity with the most important passages in De Rerum Natura. My introductions to the portions serve as study guides and are informed by my over six years of focused study of Epicurean philosophy. However, because this is an audiobook, the narrative is linear. My challenge and invitation to anyone who listens to the audiobook is to pause and take notes from time to time if you find unexplored aspects of Epicurean philosophy, so that you can later go back to the sources (or to our Garden of Epicurus FB group) and explore them in depth.
Aeon Magazine has published This granular life in celebration of the idea of the atom, calling it humanity’s greatest idea.
In late April, the Church of the Latter Day Dude’s Dudeism.com page (a parody religion based on the film The Big Lebowski) published The Dude’s Letter to Menoeceus, a translation of one of our writings into the language of The Dude–the main character and “hero” of the cult film. The translation was furnished by a fellow member of Society of Epicurus, Nathan, who is also a musician and goes on twitter by the handle @ShazdarTheBard. Check out his music here. My favorite song by him is I Hate My Job–which pretty much depicts my life many years ago before 2008 when I was a telephone banker.
I can’t think of a better person to write a Dudeist Gospel of Epicurus than Nathan. He is a knowledgeable Epicurean, and also a creative soul whose content (judging from I Hate My Job) is funny, yet (judging from his Epistle of the Dude) also insightful. He clearly fits the profile of a laughing philosopher. I’ve written about the lineage of the laughing philosophers in the past, and about parody religions specifically as they fit into this tradition, in my piece for the classics journal Eidolon titled Swinish Herds and Pastafarians: Comedy as an Ideological Weapon. In that piece, I argued that
modern practitioners of Pastafarianism are engaging in the kind of disruptive and insightful satire that ancient Epicureans were known for.
The same could be true for the Dudeists, and in fact there tends to be intersectionality between Epicureanism and many parody religions. With Pastafarians, it hinges on the importance of having an evidence-based worldview. With the Dudeists, the act of sacralizing what is essentially an art piece–a cult film whose hero might qualify as a “loser” by conventional standards–and having fun with it, says something about levity and the willingness to not take ourselves too seriously in our process of weaving happiness, meaning and value into our lives. Combine that with the frequent mini-sermons against nihilists that the Dude pronounces … and, didn’t Nietzsche say that he could not worship a god that didn’t dance? The Dude slew the Nietzschean spirit of gravity in a peculiarly artful manner, through bowling and drinking White Russians and, well, just abiding.
The character of the Dude is actually based on a real Dude, a film marketer known as Jeff Dowd, whose last name originally was Duda in one of the Celtic languages, and so he goes by The Dude. He is a character, and worthy of having a film character based on him.
Modern Dudeists consider Epicurus of Samos to be one of the great Dudes in history, which makes The Dude a modern American prototype of a kind of Epicurean that one may find, a person who models his life to some extent on Epicurean ideas. Here are some from the quotes of the Dude’s Letter to Menoeceus:
So learn to enjoy life in the lanes, because once the tournament is over, you don’t get to go back and play again.
Now, if you really want to live the good life, man, all you have to do is learn to abide.
Happiness isn’t just some fucking advertisement that passes you on the side of a bus, man – it’s seeing through all the bullshit. Like we did as kids!
One of the biggest things people get hung up on is death. But you know what, man? There’s no reason to fear the reaper. No one goes to their own funeral, right? You can’t be and be dead at the same time, man. You can’t be anything if you don’t exist. Think about that, man. Far fucking out!
Equally moronic are the nihilists who say: “Fuck this. Bowling sucks. I wish I weren’t even born.” If they really believe that life isn’t worth living, then why don’t they just kill themselves? But they won’t, man, because nihilism is just a pose. It’s not a real philosophy.
You feel good when you get what you need. And that’s what it’s all about, man. It’s how we make choices. Feelings are how you make sense of all this shit. It’s like Obi-Wan Kenobi said: “Trust your feelings, man, you know them to be true.”
Once you figure all this out, it will really tie everything together.
This last passage refers to the Dude’s rug, which “ties the room together“. Very hygge!
The Dude’s Letter mentions abiding several times. One of the koans of Dudeism is “The Dude Abides“, which basically means that we should take it easy and enjoy life. Here’s an interesting story about abiding: When I wrote my book Tending the Epicurean Garden, my editor told me that he did not want me to use Greek words that no one was familiar with, to make the book and the doctrines of Epicurus relatable to modern people. So I chose the more familiar English term abiding pleasure to refer to katastematic pleasures (these are the pleasures in state, rather than the kinetic pleasures in motion). Later on, I even brought the term to the Urban Dictionary editors, and they accepted it and added the entry to Urban Dictionary. At the time I was unfamiliar with Dudeism, but later on was happy to learn that The Dude Abides has inspired numerous memes, and has become a mantra to remind us to chill and enjoy the moment.
The Dude’s Letter to Meno was a fun project and a chance to study the Epistle to Menoeceus by re-stating its teachings in the voice of the Dude, and I’m glad Nathan enjoyed the project (he told me that needed things to occupy him during the quarantine). My hope is that the Dudes (and Dudettes) who read it will investigate the original Letter to Menoeceus by Epicurus. It’s much easier to abide after we take a little time to study the Hegemon’s ataraxia-inducing words.