The General Good and Common Welfare

The general good and the common welfare is as natural for any collective group as is the pursuit of our own happiness is for each and every individual.

As individuals, our natural inclinations are to avoid discomfort by seeking pleasure as our desired state.  Frankly,  all of us have a natural aversion to to our own discomfort.  We are born crying due to a discomfort which is only resolved once we are fed and covered.  We wake every morning and adjust the thermostat or dress according to our level of desire comfort.  We eat when hungry, we drink when thirsty.  Indeed, our every thought and action is motivated by a seemingly natural preoccupation with our own comfort.

Inasmuch as we are naturally preoccupied with our own comfort, nonetheless we of humanity likewise seem to have a natural  aversion to  the discomfort of other sentient beings as well.  In fact, the discomfort of others seems to be yet another source of our own discomfort.  The distress we feel when hearing the sounds of another sentient being in pain are such that we have no peace of mind until the circumstances are resolved.

And so it is that we of humanity:

1.  Have a natural aversion to our own discomfort.  Therefore, we have no peace of mind until our own discomforts are resolved.  Thus, we are naturally inclined to avoid discomfort by seeking comfort.

2.  Have a natural aversion to the discomfort of others. Therefore,  we have no peace of mind until the suffering of others is resolved.  Thus, we are naturally inclined to assist anyone else who is in any sort of pain, to the end that they might be comfortable.

The fact that our natural inclinations are to seek comfort for ourselves AND for others leads me to conclude that the general happiness of any group would only be natural.  Since it is the case that we hold a natural aversion to the discomfort of other individuals, then it follows that we hold a natural aversion regarding the discomfort of all people.  Hence, the general happiness of any group of people is as natural as is the general happiness of any one individual.

Conclusion:

Our natural aversion to discomfort is that which moves us as individuals to care for our own physical health and to provide for our own general happiness.

Thus, our natural aversion to the discomfort of others should likewise motivate any collective group to  maximize benefits for everyone, in order to minimize the suffering for any individual whatsoever.

The general good and the common welfare is as natural for any collective group as is the pursuit of our own happiness is for each and every individual.

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On Comfort and Contentment

Is there any concept more natural for a living being that to instinctively seek one’s own comfort?

Was not each of us born instinctively seeking our own comfort?

Does not a newborn cry when hungry?   Does not a newborn cry when uncomfortable?
And is not the baby at peace when fed a supply sufficient to appease the hunger?  And is not the infant serene when bathed and wrapped in a blanket?

Does not every living being operate according to the natural concept of seeking one’s own comfort?

Does not a dog seek shade on a hot Summer day?  Does not the same dog lie in the sunlight on a crisp Autumn afternoon?  And is the dog not tranquil once shaded from the heat of the oppressive sun?  And is not the dog not also at peace when “sunbathing” on a crisp, cool  day?

Does not each and every one of us seek our own personal comfort each and every moment of each and every day?

Do we not put on a robe when we first get out of bed on a cold Winter morning?  Do we not adjust the Thermostat to suit our desired bodily comfort?  Do we not wear short sleeves on a hot Summer day?  Do we not shield ourselves from the falling rain by carrying an umbrella or wearing a raincoat? Do we not wear gloves and a hat when it snows?  Do we not eat when hungry?  Do we not drink when thirsty?  Do we not relieve ourselves when our bodily functions make us uncomfortable?

Indeed, does not each and every one of us seek our own personal comfort each and every moment of each and every day?  And do we not experience bodily comfort at the very point that we sufficiently address each and every discomfort in our daily lives; no matter how seemingly minor those discomforts might seem?  And furthermore, do we not experience peace of mind at the very point of experiencing bodily comfort?

Conclusion:

1.  Since it is the case that every one of us seeks our own personal comfort each and every moment of our lives, shall we not rationalize that process instead of rejecting that reality?

2. Since it is only natural for all living beings to be at peace when comfortable, then is it only rational to relearn that process ourselves?

“The wise man who has accustomed himself to the bare necessities knows how to give rather than to receive”  (Epicurus)

3. Do we not in fact inflict undue anxieties on ourselves when we reason otherwise?

“Nothing is sufficient for the man to whom the sufficient is too little” (Epicurus)

“when it comes to unlimited desires, even the greatest wealth is but poverty”  (Epicurus)

“He who is not satisfied with a little, is satisfied with nothing” (Epicurus)

“If you want to make Pythocles a rich man, do not add to his store but take away his desire”  (Epicurus)

4.  Finally, would we not then be genuinely happy if we but follow the course of nature by limiting our desires to that of a supply sufficient to provide our personal comfort?

“Natural wealth is limited and easily obtained, the riches of idle fancy go on forever”  (Epicurus)

“Happiness and blessedness do not belong to abundance of riches or exalted position or offices or power, but to freedom from pain and gentleness of feeling and a state of mind that sets limits that are in accordance with nature”  (Epicurus; emphasis mine; DL)

“Thanks be to blessed nature for making the necessary easy to secure and the unnecessary difficult to supply”  (Epicurus)

Closing:

May you be genuinely happy, at peace, and comfortable;

Davey Lee

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On behalf of “The International Society of Friends of Epicurus”

I wish to offer this brief Post to introduce “The International Society of Friends of Epicurus” (http://societyofepicurus.com/).  Having just added this site to my blogroll, I would add some comments.

Whereas I am somewhat of a newcomer to Epicureanism, the heretofore mentioned “International Society of Friends of Epicurus” is a work of those much more seasoned than myself in the philosophy, hence:

1.  I will readily access this site myself for my own ongoing education, and personal benefit; and

2. I encourage all so interested in doing the same.

The “Links” page on the site of the ISFE is a wealth of information in and of itself.

I thank Hiram Crespo for his efforts over these past few weeks in launching this work, and I look forward to personally reaping the benefits of his labors, and the many others who have made the vision for the “International Society of Friends of Epicurus” a practical and useful reality for would be students of the writings of Epicurus/Epicurean ideology.

Live well, and be happy;

Davey Lee

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Natural Anxieties and Undue Fears

Anxiety is a disruption of the stable environment of our natural state of being known as peace of mind.

There are two classifications of anxieties.  There are NATURAL ANXIETIES and there are UNNECESSARY ANXIETIES.

Natural Anxieties are rare, yet oftentimes traumatic.  Such anxieties are circumstantial due to natural occurrences beyond our control.  A prime example is the loss of a loved one.  No person, no matter how balanced in perspective or however knowledgeable regarding the natural process of death, is immune to to the natural effects of mourning.  Since Natural Anxieties are due to natural events, the recovery from such is a natural process.  Given sufficient time; (which I will grant varies from person to person and from case to case) a person traumatized by the effects of Natural Anxiety will recover and eventually return to the stable environment of peace of mind, provided they understand and accept the source of their anxiety.

Unnecessary Anxieties are chiefly classified into two categories.  There are Unnecessary Anxieties due to UNDUE FEARS and there are Unnecessary Anxieties due to UNLIMITED DESIRES.  (For the purposes of this article, I will limit further comments to UNDUE FEARS.  However, as the conquest of these two concerns are key to living a life of genuine happiness, I shall refer to each of them often throughout my writings in this blog)

UNDUE FEARS regarding Death are so burdensome that they can and do impede the natural process of recovery from the effects of the loss of a loved one.  The mind conditioned to believe that death is more than the natural dispersion of our elements back into the environment is oftentimes burdened by guilt, fears, and apprehension regarding the natural process of aging and death.  As aging and death are but a natural process for all living beings, the knowledge of the natural sciences is an assurance which assists us to comprehend our own mortality.  In the words of Epicurus “at birth each of us was poured a mortal brew to drink”.

Marcus Aurelius spoke of death as “a mystery of nature, a composition out of the elements, and a decomposition into the same; and altogether not a thing of which any man should be ashamed, for it is not contrary to the nature of a reasonable animal, and not contrary to the reason of our constitution.”

Again Epicurus maintained that “correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes a mortal life enjoyable”, for “since while we exist, death is not present,  and whenever death is present, we do not exist”.  Thus, “it (death) is nothing either to the living or the dead, since it does not exist for the living, and the dead no longer are”.

Once again, Marcus Aurelius quite adequately offers assurance in the light of the most basic of all realities which the Natural Sciences reveal regarding the natural process of death and regeneration:

“Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are and to make new things like them.  For everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which shall be”  (emphasis mine, DL)

A proper understanding of the operations of the universe is truly an assurance in times of mourning.  When life and death are understood as being the same natural process for all living beings, then there is no troublesome “guesswork” as to the post life status of our loved ones who have passed away.  Nor is there a need to fear our own end, except to regard death as the conclusive natural reality to our limited natural existence.

In the words of Epicurus:

“It is impossible for anyone to dispel his fear over the most important matters, if he does not know what is the nature of the universe but instead suspects something that happens in myth.  Therefore, it is impossible to obtain unmitigated pleasure without natural science.”  (emphasis mine, DL)

To summarize this discussion of “Natural Anxiety and Undue Fears”,  please consider again these specific words of the two great Greek Philosophers (each a worthy representative of their respective schools of thought, Epicurus being the founder of Epicureanism, and Marcus Aurelius my personal favorite of the Stoics) whose writings regarding the subject at hand I have so quoted above.

Epicurus, as quoted above, maintains that:  “it is impossible to obtain unmitigated pleasure without natural science.”

Meanwhile Marcus Aurelius, as heretofore quoted, summarizes the reality of the operations of the Universe by stating that:  “everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which shall be”

The natural truths addressed by each of these philosophical giants are adequate to aid us through the Natural Anxiety of mourning the loss of a loved one, and are equally sufficient to deliver us from the Undue Fears of death which so oftentimes burden those who have been conditioned to trust speculative myths instead of relying on Natural Science for a proper understanding of the natural operations of the Universe.

If  we would but accept our natural being, then we can enjoy the peace of mind so involved.

“As long as we are on the road of life, we must make the later journey better than the beginning, but be happy and content when we have reached the end.”  (Epicurus)

“Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end thy journey in content”  (Marcus Aurelius)

May peace of mind be yours and mine, for such is our natural birthright. (Davey Lee)

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Born Epicurean

Recently, I was asked how long I have been an Epicurean.  Upon reflection it occurred to me that within the context of the query, the question would be more accurately phrased,  “When did I STOP being an Epicurean?”.  For the truth be told, I was born an Epicurean Thinker…..

From the moment of one’s birth, there is a natural instinct to pursue bodily comfort and peace of mind.  So natural is the instinct, and so prevalent are the urges to those ends, that a baby never cries for any other reasons.  Indeed, the ultimate end of the existence of the new born baby is the natural pursuit of bodily comfort and peace of mind.

Every person enters this world crying.  Initially it would seem likely that the newborn cries due to FEAR.  It must truly be a terrifying experience to be forced to leave the warmth and security of the womb, only to be involuntarily transported into a strange environment and a foreign atmosphere.  No one can blame the infant for being scared under such circumstances.  Fear is a natural DISTURBANCE OF THE MIND;  and thus the baby cries.

Once the newborn gains its bearings, crying due to a different cause ensues.  Any parent or child care provider knows that when a baby experiences BODILY DISCOMFORT the baby will cry.  Regardless of whether the bodily discomfort is due to hunger; whether the bodily discomfort is due to being too cold;  whether the bodily discomfort is due to a dirty diaper; or whether the baby experiences ANY other bodily discomfort;  the baby will cry.  Since the baby cannot tend to its own needs, nor is able to articulate words so as to speak its mind, then in such cases of bodily discomfort; the baby simply cries.

Yet an amazing and a wondrous thing occurs when the source of the bodily discomfort is addressed and thus, the lack of comfort is resolved.  When the baby is fed sufficiently so as to resolve the twinges of hunger; when the baby is wrapped in a blanket sufficient to resolve its being too cold; when the baby is bathed and clothed with a clean diaper; then and ONLY then the baby stops crying!  In the light of the fussing and sobbing that ensues anytime a baby is uncomfortable, it is amazing how little it actually takes to settle the infant into a state of tranquil calm!

And so it is that a newborn demonstrates that it is only natural to pursue bodily comfort and peace of mind as the ultimate end of our existence.  At the same time though, the infantile state of the newborn further manifests the fact that there is a natural instinct to limit desires to that of conditions necessary to procure bodily comfort and peace of mind.  In other words, once the baby experiences bodily comfort and peace of mind, then such a state is sufficient for the baby to be content.  And so it is, that for all the fussing, and for all the screaming, and for all the crying of a newborn infant; ultimately it does not require much in order for a baby to be happy.

Granted, a newborn baby lives a very simple existence.  At no other point in our lives are we as shielded from the concerns of everyday living as when we lived “in the crib” so to speak. Yet, at what time in our lives are we closer to our actual nature than at such a very time?  In fact, infantile living is the state of our existence which so vividly demonstrates the reality and the essence of our being: We are simply natural beings. The fact is that our infantile state is the time of our lives when we think and function most accurately to the true nature of all living beings.

The newborn has no prejudices to cloud the judgment, nor any preconceptions to confuse the expectations.  In such a state, what else does the infant trust except the natural senses?  How else does the baby know hunger, except by the natural senses?  How else does the baby know the feeling of being cold, except by the natural senses?  How else does the baby know the discomfort of the dirty diaper, except by the natural senses?

In that regard, the infantile state of our existence was a time when we were the least biased and at the same time the most naturally guided with regards to our actions.  A baby does not know to covet wealth; for the natural senses do not covet excess.  Rather, the natural senses  limit desires to a supply sufficient to remove pain.  Furthermore, the infant is by no means preoccupied with concerns of  eternal life, for the natural senses recognize nothing except corporeal existence.  Frankly, the blissful ignorance of the newborn is due to the fact that when one is living in the crib, one has been neither conditioned yet to the concept of  unfettered desires, nor subjected yet to superstitious myths regarding an afterlife.

And so I realize that in the unbiased state of my own infancy, I was in fact a born Epicurean Thinker:

For whereas Epicurus said “we must maintain all our investigations in accordance with our sensations” (Letter to Herodotus);  as a newborn I restricted all my investigations to my natural senses; and I did so by nature.

And again, whereas Epicurus said that we should “refer every choice and avoidance to the health of the body or the calm of the soul” (Letter to Menoeceus);  as a baby I chose to avoid the pains of hunger and bodily discomfort by crying until I was fed and clothed sufficiently to sustain my health and appease my discomfort; and I did so by nature.

Furthermore, whereas Epicurus warned that “nothing is sufficient for the man to whom the sufficient is too little” (VS 68); and likewise stated that “he who is not satisfied with a little , is satisfied with nothing” (Fragment 69); as an infant I was satisfied with the supply which was satisfactory to satisfy the needs of the moment; and I did so by nature.

Thus, in the unbiased state of my own infancy, by trusting my every thought to the natural senses; thereby exercising my every choice and avoidance to the natural pursuit of comfort and peace of mind, I demonstrated the natural reality that I was born an Epicurean Thinker.

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