Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Epicurean Delights



I always have my feelers out for ways that asexuals can improve their lot (and people in general, I suppose, but that goes beyond the scope here). One thing that I think about from the austerity of my studio apartment is how I could better my living situation. I've always envisioned my ideal living space as being spacious, full of people and animals, perferably with plenty of gardening space, close proximity to trees, and with a huge kitchen. I think most people eventually assume they'll move in with a significant other, but I can't reasonably plan for this. Last night (and I promise this all relates), I re-discovered Alain De Botton's Consolations of Philosophy on my bookshelf. I adore this book, so I was happy to see that I actually owned it. De Botton devotes a chapter to Epicurus, one of my favorite philosphers. Epicurus was cool because he was one of the only philosophers to tell us that the pursuit of pleasure was important for a good life. But whatever the term 'Epicurean' means today, the real-life Epicurus was a fan of the simplest pleasures in life: A piece of cheese, growing his own vegetables, or a meaningful conversation with friends. De Botton writes:

On returning to Athens in 306 BC at the age of thirty-five, Epicurus settled on an unusual domestic arrangement. He located a large house a few miles from the centre of Athens, in the Melite district between the market-place and the harbour at Piraeus, and moved in with a group of friends. He was joined by Metrodorus and his sister, the mathematician Polyaenus, Hermarchus, Leonteus and his wife Themista, and a merchant called Idomeneus (who soon married Metrodorus' sister.) There was enough space in the house for the friends to have their own quarters, and there were common rooms for meals and conversations. Epicurus observed that: "Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one's entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the posession of friendship." --56-57

At the risk of sounding like Oprah, I love how Epicurus actually lived his ideal life. Unlike Seneca (also appearing in the book), who spent most of his difficult life engaged in cultivating an indifference to fortune, focusing on the positive seemed to have worked for Epicurus. I like how he combined married and single people in his household, and how they were able to somehow have enough of their own space to truly enjoy each other's company. When the couples wanted to do couply things, I could just hang out with the mathematician Polyaenus and such. Some people have likened Epicurus' project here, known as "The Garden", to a commune, and perhaps that's accurate. I've joked that I'd like to live in a commune, and maybe it would be a good idea afterall. (As long as I don't have to give all my posessions to the group. I'm not sure I could exist properly without my own books and music!) Maybe a better word would be "co-op", as the word "commune" does kind of freak me out. Anyway, I don't know if Epicurus' housemates were cool people or not. Even though my first brief "large group of friends living in a house together" experience could be truly difficult at times (that's where Seneca comes in), I'd really like to give it another go. But this time, I'm not choosing a room that floods in every strong rain.

10 comments:

Mary said...

Living in an Epicurean arrangement sounds fantastic to me! I think avoiding intra-household conflict would be helped by pooling funds to hire a cleaning service. More time to concentrate on philosophy.

Becky said...

"There was enough space in the house for the friends to have their own quarters, and there were common rooms for meals and conversations. Epicurus observed that: "Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one's entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the posession of friendship." --56-57"

I would love that! And I love this post. Very positive energy. Yay!

Sasha said...

Great post. I can relate to a lot of what you said - my living situation and ideal living situation are similar. I think exploring and developing new alternative living arrangements is an important project for the asexual community. There are a few instances of this being done: people living with a married couple like a third partner, groups of friends platonically "marrying" and the like, but there is still much work to be done and much territory to be explored here. But I wonder how we can go about this with the asexual community being so small, scattered and confused. How do we begin this exploration? Where do we start?

The book sounds really interesting too; thanks for the recommendation.

Ily said...

Well hey, I'm glad people like the idea! Agree on the cleaning service (and having enough bathrooms!). And Sasha, I really like how you're asking about where to start. I wonder the same thing myself, and I agree that it's an important project. I wish I had an answer. I tend to think that most machinations of the asexual community will probably start at meetups, although actually getting people to meet in RL is so difficult that it's hard for me to visualize what comes after (not to scare anyone-- it seems to depend on the place). But, like-minded people don't have to be ase. If I could live with people of other orientations, who were committed to the arrangement and weren't going to "abandon" me to move away with partners, that would be really cool.

Gemma said...

It's funny you should bring this topic up now as just yesterday I found a similar living arrangement in my town: http://www.earthsong.org.nz/

I'd love to live there but I just can't afford it :( Hopefully in a couple of years.

Sasha said...

"If I could live with people of other orientations, who were committed to the arrangement and weren't going to "abandon" me to move away with partners, that would be really cool."


I completely agree! Orientation is not so important, but there is a HUGE difference between you being a stop-gap way for someone to reduce their rent until "the one" comes along, and you being someone to build a life with. Even if it's not forever.

So are we all moving in together then?

Superquail said...

Mary, you are SO right about the cleaning service! I think a lot of marriages would probably benefit from that as well.

Superquail said...

I think the idea of living in isolated, nuclear-family style arrangements is actually quite new. People used to live with extended families, and small villages would often be basically the same thing as a giant family, so I think it makes sense if people find the idea of being in a house with only a spouse and a kid to be rather depressing and lonely.

Trix said...

Sounds wonderful Ily! Right now I'm thinking my perfect living situation, large house with 5-8 ase or non-possessive non-ase adults, two or three kids that we share, a large yard and vegetable garden... and friends coming and going. I'm in. :)

Trix said...

PS: I forgot to mention cats. There will be cats. And dogs are good too.