07 November 2015

Epicurean Simplicity

Delicatessen of my dreams | Savoie 2012

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher from these ancient times we picture with old wisdom and stone statues. He is also known for Epucureanism, a philosophy around the pleasures of life. We have however strongly misrepresented Epicureanism as an abundance of sinful and fleeting luxuries, when this philosophy is, at heart, around simplicity and enjoying the ordinary moments of our lives.

Despite the abundance and luxury of Epicurean banquets we imagine today, it seems Epicurus was a simple man, and his philosophy one of celebration for the simple and happy moments of an ordinary life. His objective was to attain a tranquil life, peaceful, delivered from fear and pain. In other words, Epicureanism isn't about running after pleasures all the time, but rather to reach an equilibrium of peace and tranquility.

I see simplicity as a form of this Epicureanism, in a way. The pursuit of happiness isn't about feeling pleasure every single minute of our lives. This would be not only impossible to achieve, leading to constant insatisfaction, but it would also remove the ups and downs that make our lives worth living.

I believe happiness is, in part, being able to be aware of each moment of our life, no matter how ordinary or imperfect, and enjoy them for what they are. It is about finding pleasure in the mundane, driving satisfaction from what we have instead of pursuing delusions.

Epicurus seemed to offer a similar line of thinking, when he presented three categories of simple joys: the essential ones (friends, freedom, shelter, basic goods...), the natural but inessential ones (a beautiful house, luxuries of life), and the unnatural and inessential ones (power and glory). In other words, according to him, if you had friends but no money or status, you could still have a chance to be happy. But get all the money and prestige you want, without friends, happiness is impossible.

I like this hierarchy of joys and necessity, as it is a reminder that the things that make us happy are not what we believe in today's society. It isn't money, power, glory or prestige that we should aim for, but rather decent material conditions, good friends, and being able to see the joy in the simplicity of daily moments.

The problem is, we are saturated with images of luxurious happiness, from advertisments, sociel media, press, blogs, fiction... We tend to associate moments of pleasure with an expensive piece of jewellery, a vacation on the other side of the world, a big car. Treating ourselves with such luxuries could be "natural but inessential", yet we shouldn't limit our daily pleasures to these extraordinary events, nor associate the pursuit of happiness with them.

If only we could see more ordinary joys, more simple pleasures, perhaps would we train ourselves to enjoy the simplicity of life, as the wisdom of Epicurus' hedonism teaches us? In any case, I have decided to make it my mission on this humble blog: share ordinary moments of joy, the beauty of simple things. Something I'm already trying to share via Instagram for example.

If bloggers have to be influencers of their readers, I would like this to be my influence, instead of pushing people to consumption, how I would love to push you to enjoy the delightful imperfection of your day.

What are your simple, ordinary joys? What made you smile today? How would you define Epicurean simplicity for yourself?


  1. Such beautiful words. And very important underlying sentiment. Thank you for sharing. I can use the words and the help that comes with them.

    1. Thank you Archana! I'm happy if these words can help you too :)

  2. I think you are totally right, people are often pushed to pursue an idea of happiness that rarely brings anything but a momentarily satisfaction. Like you, I've been cutting down on material things for a while now and I feel much happier and also I've learned to appreciate more what I do have.
    One of my ordinary joys is having a quiet, slow breakfast whilst my 2 month old baby is asleep. Looking at his peaceful little face whilst sipping my morning coffee is like heaven to me :)

    1. I think there might be too much of an injunction for happiness indeed, and pursuing it all the time make us forget what we have here and now. I love your ordinary joy, I can imagine the scene. Motherhood sounds like a wonderful joy of life indeed :)

  3. Thank you for this interesting view on simplicity. I learned a bit about Epicurus in high school Latin, but he was set off against the stoicists there and it seems that did not do the man justice.
    I will be happy to let you push me into enjoying the imperfect joys of everyday life :). Reading your posts keeps me motivated when all around me I see people running around like crazy trying always to get more, more, more (money, pleasure, success, life-changing experiences...).