For the 6th Panhellenic Symposium of Epicurean Philosophy that was held by the Epicurean Gardens of Athens and Thessaloniki, February 2018
1. (OPENING - TWO MINUTES VIDEO WITH FAVORITE MELODIES)
I wonder how one starts up an online communication and how he can introduce himself...
You Tarzan, me Jane ! Primitive stuff…
You an American, me an Hellene ! Nationalities, countries, races, origins, roots ... tangle!
You Cassius, me Elli. OK, some nicknames or names… so what ??
How do you do ? Platitudes and formalities ….
And now a question of judgement: How do we prefer to drink our coffee??
AND THE CORRECT ANSWER: Pure and smooth like the pleasure! [i]
In other words, the answer to the question of judgement means that: We the Epicureans, around the world and across the length and breadth of the earth prefer to drink our friendly café in the “cup” of our common benefit, and we prefer its taste to be pure (without any mixed foreign materials) and smooth, just as we experience the faculty of pleasure!!
This is possibly a way to start an online conversation between two epicureans, who live and exist in distant Continents. But “distant” is somehow relevant. Really relevant, now that we have the internet technology and airplanes flying day and night, sometimes landing, and sometimes taking off in hundreds of airports of our Planet. This world which is small, great, as stated by the Poet Εlytis. [ii]
In an initial and quick reading the title of this work, some may assume that this issue will focus on a simple personal narrative of an experience, the “when”, “why” “how” and “what” two individuals... two persons communicated with each other for the first time, and how do they still communicate with each other still today, through the internet.
Nevertheless, as the narrative of this personal experience will flow, it would be better for the narrator not to slip from this objective. In other words, it should become “enarges” (crystal clear-obvious) as to whether it is actually possible to achieve the immortal good of friendship though the internet too, and among people who do not know each other, of different sexes, that live and exist in different countries, speak different languages and have certain different preventions , beliefs, cultures, customs and traditions, etc. Proving this is a difficult task, as some will assume. As they may say themselves that in order to achieve friendship, firstly it is a prerequisite that two, three or more people will try to make personal contact through personal meetings.
Other people may refer to Plato's world of ideas, in which everybody is equal and in brotherhood, living in their fantasy somewhere in the beyond, and under the orders of some imaginary philosopher-king that will regulate perfectly the relationships between them. Some other people that support stoic philosophy would say that above all they should have developed the “virtues” while they do their “duty” at the same time in accordance with the orders of a leader of any other power. Initially, I won’t disagree with the first ones, but with the second ones… you’d better leave it, as we will entangle in fairy tales ending with the: “and they lived happily ever after”. I am interested in the first ones, those who ask from the experiment to provide the proofs, i.e. the experience! This is why through the following and all those I will narrate, a final conclusion should be drawn that will be as close as possible to the actual truth.
This means that epicurean friendship can be achieved between equally different but at the same time similar in terms of thinking people of both different sexes, who despite the fact that they live anywhere on earth, have as their main purpose the one that has been set by Nature as a whole and is shared by all its species, i.e. pleasure! And in order to achieve this purpose, they set the virtue of friendship as a means, on the basis of which our common benefit and frankness exist! And one more thing: we, the epicureans when examining any issue, the first thing that we use is the foolproof method that was left to us as a dowry by our teacher Epicurus, thanks to his thorough study of the Nature. This common method is called Canon. Without the Canon it is not possible to examine things, phenomena and notions appropriately, but an endless verbalism causing confusion in the concepts and through the discrimination of things and concepts in segments, names, categories, numbers, shapes etc, where in the end all these will drown us like a stream. This is why we suggest to those who don’t know very well to “swim”, before sailing in the communicational World of Knowledge and Act to wear – just in case – “a lifejacket”, which is called the Epicurean Canon.
Diogenes Oenoandeas states the following in his huge inscription : “Wisdom cannot be transmitted everywhere on the grounds that not everyone is able to accept it. If we assume that it is possible, then truly Gods’ way of life will be given to humans”. But he also says: “With each shredding of the earth, of course, home country is something different for each person. But if we see all the surface of this world, then the home for all of us is one, the Earth, and we all live in the same place, the world.” [iii]
This is how Diogenes gives us the General Overview, although he specifies a prerequisite for those communicating, to have prudence and be civilised. So how would you communicate with others at remote parts of the Earth quickly and easily?
Will you train pigeons to transfer your letter? Will you put it on a donkey? Or will you post it and wait for days until it reaches its destination... if it actually reaches its destination. None of these options, now that technology goes with the speed of light, even with deviations (swerve), day and night.
Let’s see how I received with the speed of light Cassius’ first message, when he sent it to me on the 23rd of June, 2012 through the internet. As I will read it, many people will understand the well-known “Epicurean courtesy”. A type of politeness that remains stable and unchanged until today and with which people can talk to each other without offending or being ironic – it drives the thought and the act to the pure and smooth purpose, as we mentioned above for the taste of coffee. The first comment of Cassius towards me was as follows:
“Hi Elli. I saw your post in response to Tim... Here it should be noted, opening a parenthesis, that Tim, the one mentioned here by Cassius, is an American compatriot. Nevertheless, that Tim, continues until today to confuse stoic to epicurean philosophy. Neither me nor Cassius managed to become friends with Tim. The parenthesis closes here, and his message goes on like this: “I saw your post in response to Tim and was EXTREMELY impressed with your level of Epicurean Philosophy! I don't know how you use Facebook, whether it's appropriate to ask to be your "Friend" or not, but if you post on the Epicurean philosophy regularly at any particular location let me know as I would love to subscribe! Thanks!”
The time when Cassius sent me this message was 03.40 early in the morning, his country time, and in our country time it was 10.40 a sunny morning of June. Initially I thought of him as someone who has nothing better to do and he stays up late on the internet looking for other people to spend his time with. But these fantasies of mine were completely refuted and from the correspondence we exchanged soon after, he explained to me that he is very busy all day with his work. As he is a lawyer, during the night when he is more relaxed he likes talking with other people online, always on this solid base: the Epicurean philosophy.
Then he also mentioned his real name, sending me the website of his law firm, in which together with other information I could also see his photograph. And that’s how he continued talking to me, expressing his admire, as well as all his knowledge for the Epicurus and his philosophy. The Philosophy, which he wanted to study, while making a friendly communication with other Epicureans around the World. Moreover, he mentioned some names I knew, like my friend Christos Yapijakis with whom they had exchanged correspondence, as well as my friend Μarios Petridis. He explained to me that in his close social environment he had some friends and acquaintances, but they do not have the same epicurean worldview (cosmotheasis) with him in general, but the known Plato-Aristotle-stoic worldtheory (cosmotheory). And what could he say and what could he discuss with them? Loneliness of thought and action in an immense continent with millions of people. And this is how the feeling of loneliness is reversed, through electronic communication in the speeds of light, and it becomes interesting, understanding, joy and friendship.
So our long and serious conversations on epicurean philosophy continued. Conversations that were based on our common benefit of repulsing and feedback on issues relating to the Nature of all things. Following this, he also mentioned some books he had studied himself in his language. One was written by the academic Canadian Norman Dewitt and one of the American Frances Wright entitled: “A few days in Athens”, Lucretius “on the nature of things”, as well as many other books. However, he did not remain on other people’s books, as I will prove here with the pictures that will be presented on the screen, Cassius, as an epicurean, is also a prolific writer.
2. PRESENTED ON SCREEN PICTURES OF CASSIUS’ WEBPAGES, FORUM, BOOKS, ARTICLES etc.
Thus, with our everyday discussions on epicurean philosophy, I came up with an idea, as I was reading an excerpt from Epicurus letter, in which he was saying to a friend: “Send me a small pot of cheese, so when I want to I can paint the town red and enjoy some luxury.» [iv]Then I thought I could send him a parcel with a bottle of oil and a jar of olives from the country of Epicurus. I still remember his reaction: like a child full of enthusiasm, and he also sent me a photograph from the day he received the parcel.
3. PHOTO WITH THE PARCEL
After this friendly gesture, I understood that he was trying to find a way to requite the favour and, coincidentally, on the day of my birthday, I received a parcel from him with a small bust of Epicurus, which he produces himself with a three-dimensional printer.
4. PHOTO WITH EPICURUS BUST WITH 3D PRINTER
After some time we created with some other epicurean friends from abroad Ilkka and Hiram an epicurean group at facebook. It was then that we held a competition, and the winners received tea from the Mountain of Gods, Olympus. The two epicurean friends also reacted like children full of enthusiasm. A young American, Alexander, and a mature lady from Finland with the name Kirsti, which is a retired teacher of French language.
5. PHOTO WITH THE TEA FROM OLYMPUS
And since for everything there is a season, when our American friend Cassius tried to explain an important issue on the Epicurean philosophy... and then, what are the chances, he found online a remarkable and comprehensive article concerning this very subject. The work belonged to a Russian Academician, named Boris. [v] We wanted to know the man Boris and I took the initiative to start correspondence with him. As Boris replied to my letter very politely, then Cassius took over the communication with him in a way that could NOT be better. I will read for you a small paragraph from the message he sent to him, so that to see the way Cassius touched also some political issues with the well-known “epicurean caress”, leaving aside all stereotypes and any arrogance of power, only because he wanted to come closer to his fellowman, who had written something enlightening for Epicurus. Boris lives permanently in Russia. America - Russia two countries where the governors with their ideologies of “ism” have been dividing them for many decades like two colours: white and black. Which is the white and which is the black, well, try to find out...?!
Cassius message was clearly epicurean, and it was the following: “I will be discreet and not comment on current politics, but I have great hopes that one day (and possibly already) Russia will be a great force for good in the world. I am not sure that it is not already a better influence than the USA. No doubt there will always be bitterness in local conflicts where people live in close quarters and have very different ideas about what makes them happy. It is a shame that it is not easier to apply PD39 and simply "separate" from our enemies, so we can all live peacefully without trying to tell each other what to do. Maybe there is yet a role for Epicurus in making that message better understood.
I am a typical American and cannot speak a word of any other language than English (though I can read a little Latin). You write so well that I presume you speak English fluently? Some of us have been talking about, at some point this year, trying to do a podcast or two. I mentioned to Elli that it would be a great thing to interview you about your article. Is that something that we might be able to do sometime this year, by Skype?”
Until now, Cassius, with the same undiminished interest, asks so that to learn about us, the Epicurean Hellenes. What we discuss and how we are united in solidarity to confront the socio-economic crisis in our country - and not only - in our country. Many times he asks me to translate the presentations of our meetings, sometimes of the Symposia and sometimes of the Promethea, in order to publish them in various foreign websites. At some point we discussed with the friends of Thessaloniki’s Garden to send to Cassius a written parchment of honour and friendship, but we haven’t done this yet due to “technical difficulties”. But, honestly, an epicurean friend doesn’t really need parchments. Thus, with the friends from Athens Garden, we also discussed this: that anytime Cassius wants to visit our country, we will prepare for him a warm and friendly welcome.
However, the most important thing that confirmed the lifelong confidence of the friendship between us was when he recently wrote me the following message: “Elli, in case something happens to me, I send you a file with all passwords of all discussion forums, of my websites and my blogs, in which all articles and all my essays on epicurean philosophy have been published. I could not trust them to anyone else, but my epicurean friends, from Epicurus country”.
I could say many more things about our epicurean friend Cassius, but I don’t want to tire you so I will stop with these few things I said. If someone wants more evidence, I would be happy to participate in our discussions so that to be sure how it is possible to achieve, also through the internet, epicurean friendship between people who live and exist so far away from each other, but at the same time so close to each other.
Yes, Cassius Amicus may not speak or write in Hellenika. He may not enjoy drinking ouzo, and may not know how to dance syrtaki. He also may not read to us his lectures enjoying the acclamations of applause. He may have not walked yet on this soil on which our teacher, Epicurus, walked. Our friend Cassius may have no relatives here and he is not meeting any of us in person. However, he feels that he has many friends in Hellas. Yes, he feels and expresses this with his words and his actions, as he knows what Philodemus has said: “to be saved by one another”. [vi]
And this is something that always makes an epicurean person feel pleased and happy! This is why I think that Cassius thinks and acts like Hellene!!! As a nice epicurean Hellene, since also our teacher, Epicurus, was a NICE and GENUINE HELLENE.
Now it is like I hear him saying to Cassius the well-known VS 76: “You are the same as you grow older with that person I urge you to be and you know very well which is your own philosophy and which is the philosophy in the rest of Hellas; So I rejoice you!”[vii]
[i] NewEpicurean.com : “Pleasure is A Dish Best Served Pure and Smooth”, by Cassius Amicus.
[ii] “Axion Esti”, by Odysseus Elytis.
[iii] The precious stones of Philosophy-the big inscription in Oinoanda- Diogenes Oenoandeas, editions of Thyrathen.
[iv] Epicurus ETHICS –fragments of Letters, by G. Zografidis.
[v] Epicurus on Pleasure, Boris Nikolsky Published by Brill.
[vi] Philodemus “On Frank Criticism”, 36.
[vii] Vatican Saying LXXVI.(76) «Τοιοῦτος εἰ γηράσκων ὁποῖον ἑγὼ παραινῶ καὶ διέγνωκας ὁποῖόν ἐστι τὸ ἑαυτῷ φιλοσοφήσαι καὶ οἰὸν τοτη Ἑλλάδι συγχαίρω σοί». New Hellenic : “Είσαι ίδιος όσο γερνάς με εκείνον που εγώ συμβουλεύω και γνωρίζεις καλά ποια είναι η δικιά σου φιλοσοφία και ποια είναι η φιλοσοφία στην υπόλοιπη Ελλάδα. Γι’ αυτό σε συγχαίρω!” Translation-rendition in new Hellenic language, by ThanasisYapijakis & Babis Patzoglou.