“Epicurus (341–270 B.C.) founded one of the major philosophies of ancient Greece, helping to lay the intellectual foundations for modern science and for secular individualism. Many aspects of his thought are still highly relevant some twenty-three centuries after they were first taught in his school in Athens, called “the Garden.”
Epicurus’s philosophy combines a physics based on an atomistic materialism with a rational hedonistic ethics that emphasizes moderation of desires and cultivation of friendships. His world-view is an optimistic one that stresses that philosophy can liberate one from fears of death and the supernatural, and can teach us how to find happiness in almost any situation. His practical insights into human psychology, as well as his science-friendly world-view, gives Epicureanism great contemporary signficance as well as a venerable role in the intellectual development of Western Civilization.”
“This attack is accomplished by making you feel that your very existence is inimical to the Movement and that nothing can change this short of ceasing to exist. These feelings are reinforced when you are isolated from your friends as they become convinced that their association with-you is similarly inimical to the Movement and to themselves. Any support of you will taint them. Eventually all your colleagues join in a chorus of condemnation which cannot be silenced, and you are reduced to a mere parody of your previous self.”
—Jo Freeman. “Trashing: The Dark Side of Sisterhood.” Ms. April 1976.
The problem with identity politics, in a nutshell. If your politics is a bloodsport and treats people as representations to be “called out” rather than real people with all their complexity and flaws, then you probably aren’t going to have much of a “Movement”.
“I had to retrain my eyes and brain to find older men attractive when I started dating again in my fifties. The last time I was single the men I was looking at were in their thirties and I still had that youthful image fixed in my head. It was depressing at first, choosing from a pool that’s not regarded as desirable or vital in your society. I was paddling around in that same pool myself. I’d walk down Oxford Street looking at bald men and men with grey hair and paunches and say to myself, He’s about my age, that’s the demographic I should be looking at. I realized I had a very small group to choose from: men over fifty who’d kept themselves vaguely together physically, were single, mentally stable, solvent and not gay were rare creatures. I managed to re-educate myself eventually. Now I’m only attracted to people my age. A young face looks like a blank page to me.”
—Viv Albertine, “Viv Albertine on Dating Again in Her 50s.” Longreads.com. May 2018.
It is so rare to see a frank account of some of the problems of growing older that it is a bit startling to see it in print.
“Yes, of course, we’re fucked. (Though it’s important to specify the “we” in this formulation, because the global poor, the disenfranchised, the young, and the yet-to-be-born are certifiably far more fucked than such affluent, white, middle-aged Americans as Vollmann and myself.) But here’s the thing: with climate change as with so much else, all fuckedness is relative. Climate catastrophe is not a binary win or lose, solution or no-solution, fucked or not-fucked situation. Just how fucked we/they will be—that is, what kind of civilization, or any sort of social justice, will be possible in the coming centuries or decades—depends on many things, including all sorts of historic, built-in systemic injustices we know all too well, and any number of contingencies we can’t foresee. But most of all it depends on what we do right now, in our lifetimes. And by that I mean: what we do politically, not only on climate but across the board, because large-scale political action—the kind that moves whole countries and economies in ways commensurate with the scale and urgency of the situation—has always been the only thing that matters here. (I really don’t care about your personal carbon footprint. I mean, please do try to lower it, because that’s a good thing to do, but fussing and guilt-tripping over one’s individual contribution to climate change is neither an intellectually nor a morally serious response to a global systemic crisis.)”
—Wes Stephenson. “Carbon Ironies.” The Baffler. June 13, 2018.
“Everyone I’ve ever talked to who has been poor and who isn’t anymore has the same story of the moment they realized they were no longer poor: grocery shopping.
Mine came when I was loading my groceries onto the cashier belt and realized I hadn’t done the math.”
—Erynn Brook with illustrations by Emily Flake. “The Difference Between Being Broke and Being Poor.” Longreads.com. June 12, 2018.
1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even when truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
“The gods are not to be feared, / Death is not to be dreaded; / What is good is easy to acquire / What is bad is easy to bear.”
—quoted in Pierre Cadet, “What is Ancient Philosophy?” Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002.