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24 January 2007 @ 09:01 am
Tao of the Day - Diogenes, 4th century BCE  
[Diogenes] believed the pursuit of wealth, fame and status was just a distraction. By so ostentatiously rejecting these customary measures of success, he sought to simplify his life, to free himself from the psychological slavery that keeps so many bound to an endless chain of ambitions and desires.

Diogenes thumbed his nose at the Joneses instead of trying to keep up with them. Don't put in a sixty-hour work week just so you can afford the latest fashion, he thought. The pursuit of that kind of happiness is a race that can't be won, because the finish line recedes with every step. You cannot slip into the same dress twice because the trend of the moment has already flowed on. Diogenes' alternative:

To own nothing is the beginning of happiness.

- James Geary, The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism

This same revelation occurs in wide-sweeping cycles throughout history and into ancient times. I believe the earliest recordings of observing aesthetic peace come from Lao Tzu. What repeatedly takes us away from it?
Stax: Magistaxxy on January 24th, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
observing aesthetic peace come from Lao Tzu. What repeatedly takes us away from it?

2 things.

1) the persute of the purist aesthetic is a new way of competing with the Joneses. (who has the LEAST?)

2) human beings are creatures of habit and comfort by our natures. There is a point where you lose balance when aiming for the pure aesthetic, the psyche breaks down and balks.

It is important to remember that we need to have balance in all aspects of our lives.

Living simply, with only those things that make you *happy* is one thing (and the actually concept that most of the teachers are trying to convey). Living without anything at all, that is a completely different thing entirely. Deprivation will never lead to happiness or peace, it will only lead to longing and desire.
Kburgunder on January 24th, 2007 05:44 pm (UTC)
The full scope of this philosophy during most eras includes a whole thing about divorcing first from the longing and desire.

Epicurus, who was a young contemporary to Diogenes, said:
"A man is wealthy in proportion to the things he can do without." and "Nothing is sufficient for the man to whom the sufficient is too little."
Staxstaxxy on January 24th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
it is the definition of "sufficient" that I am addressing, actually.

personally, I can live without a lot of creature comforts, but I could not live without the tools I need to create. It would be insufficient. It's not about divorcing myself from wants, it is about the basic need to create and express.

It is also said that if a man has a talent, and does not use it, it is wasted.

There are more needs within man than food, water, and shelter. And yet, these are the things that are sufficient.

I am not saying that everyone needs a lot of extraneous crap in their lives, but I am saying that not all of that crap really is extraneous.
nplusmnplusm on January 24th, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
Was this Diogenes of Sinope (The Sinic or Cynic)? I assume from the 4 century bc, it must be.
Kburgunder on January 24th, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Diogenes
He's the pill who slept in a tub outdoors, lived with a pack of dogs, and was generally a trouble-making homeless guy among the pre-Stoic era in Greece. Sound like the same guy?
nplusmnplusm on January 24th, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Diogenes
Defecating in the theatre, pointing with his middle finger...sounds like the guy!
Kburgunder on January 24th, 2007 05:50 pm (UTC)
Cultural norms
What repeatedly takes us away from it?

I think the momentum of cultural norms has a lot to do with it.

It is currently a cultural norm in the US to live separately, with at most a partner, a roommate or a nuclear family, in a housing unit which generally doesn't have common space with people outside of the partner/nuclear family. Each of us needing to pay rent individually based on this cultural norm drives us to work and strive for the apartment, house, etc. and keeps us in the acquisition game. In other cultures or even previous cultural norms in our country, many people lived with their parents or more communally, perhaps until they were married or perhaps always, and it fundamentally changes what is expected of the individual until then.
Varnvarn_ix on January 25th, 2007 04:43 am (UTC)
I train a martial art with a worldwide organization. There is a summer camp each year in Spain. Do I go there each year? No. I'd like to, but there isn't enough money. It's a pity because fellow practitioners from all over the world come to train, mingle and get to know each other, and the nature of the art is such that it tends to attract thoughtful and intelligent people.

I used to think money was evil and dirty. I no longer do that. Money and wealth in general is a means to do things.

You can live a simple life, get good in your limited field, earn enough to get by, engage in small things, modest activities. Or you can lead a very busy, involved life, manage millions of dollars, be a mover, work hard, play hard. In both cases you can be happy or unhappy.

Here is a story (No. 4 on this page):


Possessions can be functional and non-functional. Furthermore, possession in the legal sense is different from 'a right to use', as you can have functional possessions you never use, as well as a right to use things that aren't yours. A castle cook will view the kitchen as 'hers', there will be proprietary pride in her manner, even though the castle and everything in it belongs to the lord.

If you strive for the useful sort of possession, direct or indirect (company or communal resources), and use them in interesting ways, then it's OK. Accumulating stuff so that the neighbors get envious... not so OK.

I will buy a Timex rather than a Rolex, as it keeps better time for less money. I -would- buy a Rolex if wearing it significantly improved the way people I do business with would treat me. In this case, the Rolex would be a useful tool for being a Rolex.