A PERSONAL NOTE
It is with a joyful heart and deep sense of responsibility that I offer the learnings in this book. I propose that you can live a pleasant life if you so choose. Furthermore, I submit to you that the insights of Epicurus are neither less relevant today than they were twenty-three centuries ago, nor are they more suitable to young than old. As the philosopher himself reminds us, it is “neither too early nor too late, when it comes to ensuring the health of soul.”
Born and bred in a conservative family, I was raised in tradition based on a religious worldview. I was instructed to value material success through status, wealth, and the accumulation of stuff. I worked hard and long to climb the corporate ladder and got caught up in the rat race. By all accounts, I had made it.
And yet achievement came with a heavy cost, and each success was less fulfilling than the last. When I reached my fifties, I had the profound realization that I no longer recognized myself; I was distressed, anxious, asking for more and more. With the knowledge that this life no longer suited me, I sought a new path to avoid the cognitive dissonance my work life promoted.
Seeking an alternative philosophy of life, I turned to the scholars whose teachings have stood the test of time. I became frustrated with these ideologies, which were vague, conceptual, and idealistic in nature, as they had no practical application in my life. At last, I stumbled upon a letter written by Epicurus to his friend Menoeceus.
That moment, when I first discovered his philosophy of nature forever changed the course of my life. I was immediately struck by the fact that this was more than simply another philosophy, but rather the intersection of two mainstream philosophies that traverse human culture: that of finding happiness by pursuing pleasure and living by the guidance of nature. This philosophy was incredibly comprehensive and yet exceptionally simple.
Hungry for more, I was disappointed to find that the remains of this philosophy are few: two more letters, some quotes, a poem, and indirect sources. Even so, the suggestions contained therein had an instantaneous, positive impact on the quality of my life, inspiring me to learn more.
Leaving no stone unturned, I found crucial aspects of this philosophy could not be explained, and others were missing altogether. This mystery only served to further drive me in search of answers. Having exhausted qualitative resources, I turned to the scientific discipline, wondering if and how this might shed light on the subject. I would soon discover that what once seemed mysterious about this ancient Epicurean philosophy is explained by modern science.
My relationship with Epicurus and his teachings has evolved over the course of the last decade. Through diligent study, I became familiar with Epicurus and his philosophy—not only in mind but also in soul. Epicurus’s promotion of agency inspired me to accept accountability for all aspects of my life. By my own volition, my energy is now channeled into the activities I enjoy and the people I love.
With the knowledge that chance resides out of our purview by nature, I consciously let go of thoughts of worry and conjecture, freeing up valuable energy better spent enjoying life. With great effort, I have become less analytical and much more aware of my senses and feelings.
Today, I employ reason in decision-making only, focusing on the qualitative with a lens of optimism and an appreciation of inherent beauty. I devote my time carefully, enjoying the company of my wife, children, grandchild, and friends without watching the clock, savoring each moment whether of great import or of the mundane variety. I find flow in sports, music, and dancing. Through radical, conscious changes in perceptions and thinking, my quality of life has improved dramatically.
This book is a labor of love, a vehicle by which to share my personal experience with you. Despite its technocratic nature, it is undeniably a deposition of my soul, brimming with emotion, pleasure, and pain throughout my quest for joy. I am pleased to present an empirically sound, well-documented philosophy of life that serves as a refreshing alternative to the prevailing idealistic culture.
And now, the caveat: happiness is indeed a choice.
There are no excuses to anyone from this page forward.
Neither fate nor fortune casts a shadow upon your life without your permission. But worry not, as you are inherently well-equipped for this journey to the joyful life. With determination and perseverance, you, too, will find the happiness to which you are entitled. You need only take the first step. Open your mind and activate your will to take your life in your hands by pursuing pleasure.
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Excellent. A fine analysis of the apprently simple teachings of a very wise man.