Wednesday, September 3, 2008
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.