A toast to Epicurus
Yesterday I was trans- lating a poem from La siesta de Epicuro, a recent book by the Malagan poet Aurora Luque. So this morning I had Epicurus on my mind and I decided to google him, since I never really studied Epicurean philosophy and only have a very superficial familiarity with its doctrines. Here's one of his statements from the Vatican Sayings: "Nothing is enough to someone for whom what is enough is little." To me that sounds like an excellent summary of alcoholism! (The Vatican Sayings, by the way, are so named because of the presence of a 14th century manuscript in the Vatican Library that contains a series of quotes attributed to Epicurus.) And last night I had a brief conversation on the topic of excessive drinking, so that is also on my mind. The alcoholic suffers because he/she ends up in constant battle with the desire for more. Consequently, the distinction between pleasure and pain becomes confused and quite paradoxical: we drink more to kill the pain caused by excessive drink which causes more pain, so more drink, etc., etc. In short, addiction. That's just my experience. So the answer is moderation. Simple. Yes, but not for me, and reading Epicurus reaffirms my understanding of the nature of my experience and condition: moderate drinking may be fine for a day, maybe for a week, but in my brain it was always "little". Little was unsatisfactory, and thus, not pleasurable. So moderation always ended up thrown to the wind. More! More pleasure, eventually leading to pain... But it's in our very nature to seek pleasure. Pleasure is good. So I learn that for me, and I'm not alone here, staying completely free of that whole dynamic is essential. Of truly vital importance. And I learned there are some things, even very, very simple things, that I can't do alone. But that's another story.