friday philosophising

I'm engrossed in a book by Daniel Klein at the moment, called Travels with Epicurus. Read it? It's worth a gander. Klein is a 70+ year old who travels to the Greek island of Hydra in search of how to live an authentic old age. He goes to study the old folk there, whom, he believes, live their elderly years contently.

via here

Klein travels with a stash of philosophy books on how to live a good life, including works written by Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher whose notions of a good life revolved around simple pleasures and self-sufficiency (and hence, freedom). He wrote:

"Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance."

I like him. And I like Klein. His musings speak to me. And make me feel like there is hope for humanity. I sometimes get nervous about the way I'm 'doing life'. I'm not doing it like everyone else is. So many people I know work themselves to the ground in order to climb up the corporate ladder and buy bigger houses. It doesn't make too much sense to me. In times of self-doubt, you need to know someone else thinks just like you, so you know you're not being completely silly.

Yesterday I read this passage from the book and I wanted to share it with you. Epicureans are not alone!

Agean islanders like to tell a joke about a prosperous Greek American who visits one of the islands on vacation. Out on a walk, the affluent Greek American comes upon an old Greek man sitting on a rock, sipping a glass of ouzo, and lazily staring at the sun setting into the sea. The American notices there are olive trees growing on the hills behind the Greek but that they are untended, with olives just dropping here and there onto the ground. He asks the old man who the trees belong to.

"They're mine," the Greek replies.
"Don't you gather the olives?" the American asks.
"I just pick one when I want one," the old man says.
"But don't you realise that if you pruned the trees and picked the olives at their peak, you could sell them? In America everybody is crazy about virgin olive oil, and they pay a damned good price for it."
"What would I do with the money?" the old Greek asks.
"Why, you could build yourself a big house and hire servants to do everything for you."
"And then what would I do?"
"You could do anything you want!"
"You mean, like sit outside and sip ouzo at sunset?"

Do you know what I mean by 'feeling like you might be doing it wrong' because everyone else is doing it differently? How do you quell your self-doubt?


  1. I have to remind myself where i am headed everyday. That other world is so strong with its messages of 'more more more'. I get offered jobs all the time for my current qualifications, there is a temptation there to have that prestige ....but it takes me away from where I am heading. To be present in the moment, milking my goat as the sun rises ..... is better than anything else. The way I look at it is everyone else is working their butts off to get that feeling that I already have and they will never get there unless they stop doing what they are doing.

  2. Yep, I know just what you mean. I don't generally ever think I'm doing it wrong, because it feels so right in my soul to move away from the 'norm'...but it is hard to keep your course straight at times, and that is why I love to read words like these and like those on the blog Whole Larder Love. My whole body just screams YES when I do, and it's like my North Star. Muchos respect to you Maria, you inspire me!

    1. Thank you Becs! Also love WLL, Rohan's very inspiring.

  3. It is very gratifying to hear that my book strikes a chord with you.


    Daniel Klein

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. If it's the real Daniel Klein... well, I'm flattered you'd comment!

  4. Just requested it from my local library.
    Thanks Maria.
    Sorry Daniel.

  5. One of my subjects at university is Latin and some authors (Cicero, Lucretius) have written about Epicurus' doctrines. We read about the boring bits, though, like where the atoms and planets wander. This book sounds like a read just to my taste!
    Greetings from Germany,

  6. Hi Maria,
    I have felt for a long time that I was perhaps born in the wrong era! I struggle to fit in with the modern rush of life and wish for things to be so much simpler. So just this year I decided it was time to honour that calling by simplifying things - I no longer watch tv or read gossip magazines, I buy second hand when I can and only if I really need it, I have my own vegie patch and orchard, I bake, I find things for my kids to do away from the tv and without the need to buy more toys, I consume less in general, and I holiday locally and NOT in Bali! And I find time to sit on my deck with a wine and watch the sunset to appreciate how beautiful life really is. It is hard to stay away from the pressures of life and I often feel like I need to escape every now and then to regain my balance. Then I can stay true to myself and be proud that I am different and not 'keeping up with the Jones'!
    Keep up the inspirational blogs Maria!

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  8. I love this, Maria. I would much rather find happiness NOW, at the age of 24 and only a short time into my "career" than work 70 hour weeks so that maybe I can have it in 20 or 30 years. For some reason, when thinking about this, I always think about the nicest restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin where my husband and I met as college students. We frequently ate out, and this one restaurant was very out of our price range, but one night we went and each got one appetizer and a drink. And what we expected to be one of the best restaurant experiences so far was actually terribly depressing. The restaurant was filled with couples who seemed to be quite well off but most of them were silent or having awkward conversation. I think about them when I think about my work and my relationship. I could work my ass off in order to afford meals at that restaurant. Or I can work less, earn less money, and spend time on things that really matter, like making dinner at home with my husband.

  9. I love the philosophy I just read in this post, I feel inspired to check out his book and read more.

  10. Having spent the summer in Italy with my husband, I understand that philosophy. We found a Tuscany villa for rent by a couple in their 80s who were both living life to the fullest. I think its the beautiful atmosphere in Italy, but I certainly agree with your thoughts!

  11. This article just reflects my own thoughts about life. Love it.



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