Pacatus Level 03
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Posts by Pacatus

    the ravages of idealist perspectives.

    I was heavily conditioned ("Pavloved") in such self-ravaging perspectives growing up, and they were reinforced over and over -- by family, culture, religion -- throughout my adulthood. [I sometimes think that such conditioning is like a years'-long slow hypnosis, with deeply embedded, subconscious, post-hypnotic triggers.] It took a long time -- and some wise counsel -- to begin to overcome them. I still get caught up sometimes.

    Thanks for this! :)

    From a poem I wrote a couple of years back, entitled “Democritus Ridens.” (The quotes I posted above were the epigraph for the poem.)

    He taught the world is round, fashioned of atoms whirling

    in space -- that cheerfulness is a flourishing fountain

    of health, a natural spring to cure our fevered fears.

    Plato hated him: too much mirth, too little divine.

    Epicurus, with liberating swerve, welcomed him

    -- and all us commoners -- into his pleasant garden.

    Now this amiable sage lampoons my gravity,

    pretentious habits of self-baiting guilt and despair,

    glancing askance in amusement from his portrait perch --

    with an anachronistic plume-feather in his cap.

    My plea, on this day weighing down like an iron sigh:

    “O Philosophus Ridens, enlighten me to laugh!”

    ~ ~ ~


    Let us offer to those who suffer daily travail

    at least the respite of cheerfulness: a festive inn,

    however rustic, along the wearying long road—


    “Plume feather”: reference to a reproduction I have of a painting by Jacob Duck (c. 1600-1667), titled “Laughing Democritus Seated Next To A Terrestrial Globe”

    "A book of verses underneath the bough,
    a jug of wine, a loaf of bread--and thou
    beside me singing in the wilderness--

    Oh, wilderness were paradise enow!"

    This was a treasured statement of our philosophy when my wife and I lived a more simple life (for 15 years) in what I called our "widly garden'": growing vegetables in the kitchen garden, cutting and splitting wood for winter, planting fruit trees, gathering blackberries and wild cherries -- and my wife's homemade wine. Doesn't seem pessimistic at all to me.

    But, re the Khayyam quote, I always thought Epicurus might have quipped: "Why are you in a wilderness? Are their no civilized gardens around?" ;)

    I am far too much a natural introvert (which I embrace, after years of living a -- for me -- deeply stressful extroverted life, especially my work-life: work that I was good at, but which took a toll in both physical health and any mental serenity) to "run" an Epicurean anything. Or enjoy more than a brief visit to even "the sweetest kind" of bed and breakfast. But I can see that it could be both a noble and a pleasurable venture.

    (And I'm w Cassius on the nudist colony!).

    I recently acquired a chain bracelet engraved with the words "Memento Mori." I know this is a phrase generally adopted by and associated with the Stoics. But, for me, it is a simple reminder to enjoy the simple pleasures and enjoyments -- and to choose happiness -- now; especially when I am on the edge of succumbing to stress, anxiety, anger, etc. -- which I have long been prone to do (along with getting caught in loops of endless overthinking). I pair "memento mori" with "laetus nunc es": be happy now.

    I'd to imagine him dancing happily and joyfully in the garden.

    I think sometimes we might get caught up in the notion of philosophy involving only mental exercise: study and discussion, thoughts on how to apply a hedonic calculus (or a "virtue calculus" for the Stoics), mind-focused meditation practices (and practices to "condition the mind," as Nate says), etc. The physical comes up more in terms of food and drink, sometimes sex, maybe taking a walk in nature.

    But physical exercise can be free (unconditioned) in practice -- and as a practice. Socrates thought that spontaneous dance was the best exercise. As a youth, I did wild, free-form dancing after discovering Zorba the Greek. Later, in middle age, I practiced Tai Chi (very form oriented as a moving meditation). Then I discovered Tandava Yoga, which is like s free-form Qigong (no postures/asanas or prescribed movements) -- and which can be done in a very light way, like Tai Chi -- in which you breathe and allow your body to move as it wishes (that, in itself, is a kind of discipline). I find that I enjoy that very much (as well as, still, the occasional spontaneous dancing).

    As Alan Watts once said: "The point is sometimes to go out of your mind -- so you can come to your senses" (rough quote from memory). I have also discovered Laughter Yoga (without the need for jokes, or funny thoughts or gestures).

    My problem is a tendency to get lost in my head. Pleasurable, non-directed physical practices are helpful -- once I remember to engage them. :(

    As I contemplate it (not much, but sometimes) in my elder years now, I find that I am not afraid of death either. {Emphasis on that word "find" -- it doesn't really feel like a decision: I just find myself in agreement with Epicurus; but maybe I have internalized his teaching on the subject as just plainly making sense.}


    EDIT: But I just recalled some lines I wrote a few years ago --

    How tragic for the the single flame to fear
    annihilation in the larger fire,

    or waterdrop to be afraid to fall
    again into the vastness of the sea.


    Or maybe just "nothing, nothing, nothing -- nothing at all..." (With apologies to Archibald MacLeish, "The End of the World".) And thus nothing to fear ...

    Essentially a western "haibun": a prose section capped by a brief poetic fragment -- which would be a haiku in the Japanese form. But I like the notion of doing it without trying to adhere strictly to the Japanese aesthetic. (I've tried it using a brief couplet, but this works at least as well, using the Epicurean epigram.) Well done!

    A Small Ode to Epicurus

    You have welcomed us all to your Garden,

    no matter the gender or class.

    Pleasantness you offer - with simple fare,

    friendship, tranquility and ease.

    We can leave our burdens in the byway

    with the clutch of traffic and dust,

    find respite in a homey oasis

    whose invitation is open,

    conveying conviviality, peace,

    and time to draw a common breath;

    to relish the freshening fragrance

    of lemons, marjoram and sage;

    cool water or bloodred wine, rough brown bread,

    salad greens, dark olives and cheese:

    unadorned pleasures, sans the toil and strain

    of over-fed extravagance;

    lively talk of philosophy, laughter

    at nagging follies we once learned

    from our elders by strictest rote - and fear.

    Under your eaves, we can relax:

    embrace the evolving turnstile seasons,

    heartbeat of the earth, rain and sun;

    celebrate the fullness of the senses

    and feelings that inform our way.

    Under your eaves, we can abide: happy

    in the naturalness of ourselves.

    ~ ~ ~

    You have welcomed us all to your Garden,

    which we now carry with us as we go …

    A rather sage therapist friend of mine (who both helped me through a really rough patch, and helped me to look into myself), said that anger and fear arise from the survival/defense response - fight, flight or freeze. And thus, in appropriate context, can be very helpful emotions. This seems to me to accord with your analysis here - of "natural anger".

    But, partly through layers of socialization, many of our emotions can become maladapted: anxiety over future events that may never come to pass, anger at perceived slights, and the like.

    The trick is to recognize the difference. And to practice "calm and awareness" before we get caught up, so that it is available to us when needed. (Still working on that ...) I have sometimes used a simple gesture: raising my hand in a ward-off position - just like a batter stepping out of the box - and sometimes actually say to myself "step out." If in the company of others, I might make the gesture very slight as to be unnoticeable (but I still feel it). The idea is just to create some mental/emotional space. (But, as I say, still working on it all ...)

    Unfortunately, none of us may be "average." So I think that Kalosyni is right: we need to pay attention to our own (possibly variable) rhythms. My wife is sure that I operate on something like a 23 hour cycle, ;) and so adherence to clock-time doesn't work for me. Sometimes I'm up till the wee hours; sometimes I'm in bed at "dark-thirty." It's a bit like my ADHD: I've learned that the worst I can do is fight it. Following nature is also following my own nature, as best I can.

    Oh, and I do like naps!