Tuesday, April 3, 2012

lawn games with epicurus

as we were sitting in his garden (called the garden)—for once it was just epicurus and me enjoying the pleasures of the place—the athenian grass receptive and vellum soft, the flowers untamed and straining, everything pleasing and delightful, we found ourselves having an argument—good natured, of course—about whether to drag out the croquet or bocce ball set or, perhaps, badminton? horseshoes? that morning we failed to agree so we decided to skip playing games. instead, we continued sitting, munched fruit out of a bowl, and engaged in a chat about this and that when he happened to mention how an endless, spirited colloquy became the spirit of the garden.

it was a friend, he explained, who planted the seed of an idea with him, and he liked the idea and the idea took hold—maybe you've heard the philosophy? it's all about bringing pleasure to the inner life, to the mind and spirit, by softening conflict and worry (he called it fear, i call it stress), and enriching life by living it prudently, honorably, and justly and by being magnanimous and moderate in all things—and he told some other friends and they told their friends who told their friends—you know how it goes—and before long it had spread like mad.

(he admitted he really didn't get how this could have happened—talk like his does not offer a quick fix.)

now he had so many people hanging around the garden, seeking peace and happiness, wanting to engage in deep discussions, that he often felt like he just wanted to shoo them all away in order to simply be alone to read and think, you know, the way he used to on samos.

but, he continued, i really don't mean it about my friends. i'm just blowing off a bit of steam, that's all. he had this little habit, when he was deep in thought, of slowly rubbing above his eyebrow with his garden-rough fingertips and then bringing his thumb and index finger down to his earlobe and gently, repeatedly, pulling on it, as if massaging away a nagging intrusion into the flow of ideas.

while i lingered with him he told me friends are important and, tugging on that dear earlobe of his, he whispered many of them have discovered my philosophy can be a therapy for life, a therapy to heal the soul. 

he handed me a cherry as bright as a shining garnet and said i have learned this: i am content having little—on such a diet even a small delicacy is as good as a feast.

i think i get it—or at least i'm trying to, anyway. pare off the excess. be happy with less. tone down worry to achieve the inner tranquility of a life well lived. and don't forget to take a look around and enjoy the garden once in a while.

or something like that.

~ the garden image featured above is certainly not in greece, but rather it is the garden at jane austen's chawton cottage (june, 2011) in hampshire in the uk. my husband patiently put up with my need to stop at quite a few gardens and historical sites. after all, isn't that what husbands are for?


BavarianSojourn said...

Beautiful piece of writing... You know, I thought that was an English country garden!! It's not too far from my Mum's house, it's lovely isn't it? You captured it very well! Emma :)

Jayne said...

Oh, how fortunate you are to have sat with dear Epicurus in his garden of pleasure! A long sit in a beautiful garden with untamed and straining flowers does the soul good.

This so reminds me of my friend Sheila. I think she and Epi were tight. He has it right, your friend: Peace can only truly be found in the absence of fear (whatever our fears may be). Wouldn't I like to find that perfect mental state of peace and tranquility, but I'm afraid I fear too much. I stress too much. I am told to meditate, and I try, but often the fears interrupt my attempt at peace. Argh!

I wonder if I had only a garden of which to tend, and nothing more, no responsibilities, if I might attain this level of consciousness? Na. Probably not--I'd find something to worry about. The weeds!

Loved the piece--it has set the tone for my day, and I'm going to try very hard to maintain it. (I'll keep my pruner with me) ;)

Cottage Garden said...

I love your prose and hear a voice so distinctive throughout your writing. Just spent a delightful hour reading your past posts. Must come back more often. Oh to have more time for blogging and inspiring places like this.

Do you know I have been meaning to go to Jane Austen's cottage at Chawton for such a long time. Some husbands are most certainly renowned for their patience as garden and stately home itineries gather pace. The gardens of Kent are our destination later in the month - he never complains and secretly enjoys them ... I hope.

I hear your philosophy and will carry it with me today.