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.