Epicurus – Crackdown on the rat-race since 300 b.c.

Did the first downshifters in human history meet here? (Photo: Olympia, Greece)

Did the first downshifters in human history meet here? (Photo: Olympia, Greece)

Woodpecker started his systematic research on how to live a happy life in a deep personal crisis in his early 20s, about 15 years ago now.

At this time I decided to start with the founders of happy living: The ancient greek philosophers of the Epicurean / Hedonist and Cynicism traits.

OMG, now Woodpecker seriously wants to bother us with Greek philosophers?

Yes, indeed, I’ll do that, because there is a lot to learn from these guys.

I think whenever an opus or book survives a time as long as 2000 years, and is still teached, sold and cited, it probably hit a very deep truth – otherwise it would long before have sorted out by history and dozens of generations of readers.

So, what did that guy say?

Well, basically he founded the first downshifting community on this planet.

His basic idea was that living a happy live it the highest goal in life.

The ultimate state of happiness is born out of a mental state of tranquility, freedom from fear and absence of bodily pain.

To reach this, one has to:

  • live a modest and ethical live,
  • increase one’s understanding of the world,
  • reduce desire,
  • cultivate friendship  and
  • avoid any source of negative feelings / any dis-pleasure.

The last bullet on pleasure is often misunderstood in a way that you should only look for pleasures and enjoy as many of them as you can to get happy.

This is not correct, as Epicurus was well aware of the costs and pain that focussing on pleasures can bring in the long run. Thus his notion to avoid any dis-pleasures.
So, enjoying a pleasure is fine, but take into account its cost (material and non-material) before going for it. By all means, arrange your life in a way to avoid situations where you experience unnecessary dis-pleasure.

Example from Woodpeckers life:
Actually, I am not a confrontational guy. I am excellent in team-work and building things together, and I love interesting but civilized discussions on all sorts of things. However, I don’t like destructive or aggressive discussions, elbow-environments or open clash with others. This gives me personally a lot of dis-pleasure.
Shortly ago I recognised this when having an internet-discussion on a political issue.
As you might know, internet discussions tend to get aggressive quickly, as the restraints of face to face communications are missing. So did this one.
So I realized that there is really no point continuing this kind of discussions. All arguments were exchanged, neither side was moving, no new insights were generated and the discussion had changed into a fight.
Same holds for my job which I had to switch two times until I found an environment that was fitting.So why not avoid this kind of situations and focus on situations where you feel comfortable and can excel in a more suitable environment?

Reducing Desire:

This is the downshifting part in his philosophy.
Without any statistics and stuff he understood that accumulation of wealth, material things, fame and status is a false way, that ever creates new desires, instead of satisfying current ones.


Not much to say on this one. Social capital clearly is very important for happiness and deserves your utmost attention. See here.

Living an ethic live:

This is interesting, because it is an absolute constant in all serious philosophical and religious systems you will find.
All these systems claim that a prerequisite for a happy life is to live in an ethic (a morally correct) way.
So obviously it is fair to assume that this is correct – indeed human nature seems to be structured in a way that it has the desire to behave in a social and moral way. You see this very clearly in children, who have a built-in and often disturbingly correct compass for fairness and morality.
Over time this desire can be spoiled and our materialistic world does it’s fair share to corrupt human ethics, but I fully agree with Epicurus and the others:

Living an ethically correct live is in your own interest and necessary for a happy live. The reward is a firm standing, a peaceful feeling and and ease of mind that you can never reach if you pay homage to the “dark side”: Selfishness, greed, falseness, deception, you name it.




2 comments on “Epicurus – Crackdown on the rat-race since 300 b.c.

  1. Cool story bro… 🙂

    But in all seriousness: I loved reading this.

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