Philosophy has always been regarded as a means of discovering the secret of happiness. What can really impart amazing power to make us happy? What gives us joy, pleasure, and enormous satisfaction? One of the best answers to this tricky question might have been given thousands of years ago, before the birth of Christ, by an ancient philosopher named Epicurus. He was born in Greece, on the island of Samos, in 341 BC.
Epicurus strongly believed that each of us is endowed with the capacity to achieve real happiness. The only problem is that we tend to stubbornly look for it in the wrong places. He claimed that our desire to enjoy life and to feel pleasure, should not arouse any feeling of guilt. Life is given to us to enjoy, and therefore, it must be lived fully and fervently.
The most important mistake that people make, according to Epicurus, is that they associate the idea of happiness with having lots of money. He also managed to explain why we tend to make such an erroneous association. Though Epicurus proclaimed that pleasure is the most essential thing in life, he appears to have led a rather simple, moderate life: simple clothes, simple home, drinking water rather than wine, and having frugal meals.
The basic concept of his philosophy is that we are starkly unable to understand what can make us happy. We are very much attracted to the materialistic things rather than the spiritual ones. And what do we do? We go to shopping of useless things, mislead by advertising. Thus, we replace our real needs with requirements like more clothes, furniture, cars, nice houses, and many other necessities.
But, according to this Greek philosopher, the only three things that we need to be happy are: friends, freedom, and an analyzed life.
Epicurus valued friendship very much. When he was 35 years old, he bought a big house, and invited some of his friends to live together with him. He stated that friends are an essential ingredient for happiness, and that we need their permanent company; when we eat, walk, or feel the need for conversation. Epicurus said one should never ever eat anything alone; it’s more important to have a simple meal with a special friend, than to eat all sort of delicacies all by ourselves.
Freedom is another ingredient of happiness. To break free from the agitated life of Athens, he and his friends decided to move to the countryside, and lead a simple, beautiful, and healthy life. They could grow their own food crops, and did not depend financially on anyone else. They could enjoy nature, fresh air, good food, and did not care if their clothes looked shabby. Money seemed to no longer have power over them.
The third thing to make us happy is “an analyzed life”. It simply means taking time to think and to consider our worries, what stresses us and why. Epicurus was of the opinion that our worries might decrease simply by analyzing them very carefully and rationally.
In this respect, one also might take into account, the Christian perspective on worries, namely trusting the Almighty to provide us with all the necessary goods that we need to survive. At any rate, though he lived before the appearance of Christianity, Epicurus seems to agree that we should base our life on a spiritual support rather than a materialistic one, in order to be utterly and divinely happy.
If all that we need are these above-mentioned simple and natural things, why aren’t we happy most of the time? Why do we always tend to complain about the lack of money? A major role in this is being played by the concept of advertising. This commercial and materialistic world intends to sell us substitutes for the things we really need, and which come free of charge. Just to give an example here, think of the commercials for cell phones that have the following message: “if you buy our products, you will be getting in touch with plenty of people, and therefore, have lots of friends”. Yet let us not forget the old saying: “The best things in life are free”.