Culture Health & Fitness History

LETTER TO MENECEO (of Epicurus)

Man begins to philosophize as a young man and as an old man he is never tired of philosophizing. For the good
health of the soul, in fact, no man is ever too young or too old. Who says the young man
he is not yet old enough to do philosophy, and that the old man has already passed it, it is as if he were saying that he is not
the age to be happy has yet reached, or has already passed.
So both the young man and the old man must philosophize: the old man so that he remains as he ages
young for the good memories of the past; the young person so that, while remaining young in age, he is mature enough to face the future with courage.
It is good to reflect on the things that can make us happy: in fact, if we are happy we have everything we need; if we are not, we do everything to be.
Put into practice the things that I have always recommended to you and reflect on them, because they are the necessary principles, fundamental to a happy life.
First you must consider divinity as an indestructible and happy being, as men commonly think of gods; therefore, do not attribute anything to the divinity that contrasts with his immortality and his bliss, and instead hold true everything that is well in accord with his happy immortality.
The gods in fact exist, and the knowledge we have of them is quite evident; but men attribute to the gods characteristics contrary to the same idea that they make of them. Denying the gods they believe in
men, it is therefore not impiety. Impiety is rather attributing to the gods the ideas that men commonly have about them, because they are not correct ideas, but serious errors. From the idea made of the gods man
draws the greatest damage and disadvantages. In fact the gods, who are continually dedicated to their virtues, welcome the
similar to them, while they consider as foreign everything that is not similar to them.
Get used to thinking that for us men death is nothing, because all good and all evil consists in
sensation, and death is the absence of sensation.
So realizing that death is nothing to us makes mortal life happy, not because it adds infinite time to life, but because it takes away the desire for immortality. In fact, there is nothing to fear in life if you are truly convinced that there is nothing to fear in not living anymore.
And it is also foolish to fear death because it is painful to wait for it, even if it brings no pain.
In fact, when death is present it will not give us pain, and it is therefore foolish to let death there
you bring pain while we wait for it.
So the most fearful of evils, death, is nothing for us, because when we are there there is no
death, when there is death we are no longer there. Therefore death is nothing, for the living as for the dead: because for the living it does not yet exist, while as regards the dead, they themselves do not exist.
Most people, however, flee death considering it as the greatest of evils,
or they seek it as a liberation from the evils of life.
The wise man, on the other hand, does not reject life and is not afraid of death, because he is not against life and at the same time he does not consider not living any more an evil.
Just as the wise man does not seek the most abundant foods, but the best, so he does not seek the longest time,
but try to enjoy the time he has: it is foolish to urge young people to live well and the old to die well, because in life itself there is pleasure, and the art of living well and dying well is the same thing .
Of course, it is worse than those who say: it is nice never to have been born “but, if you are born, it is nice to pass
thresholds of Hades. “If whoever says these things is convinced of it, why doesn’t he abandon life? it is in his power
do it if that’s your opinion and you speak seriously. But if he jokes, he talks like a fool about things about which
there is really no joking.

We also need to remember that the future is not entirely in our hands, but somehow it is
it is, albeit in part. So we shouldn’t expect it to come true, but neither should we despair that it won’t come true at all.
We must then think that some of our desires are natural, others vain. And some of the natural ones are necessary, others are not.
And of the natural and necessary ones, some are necessary to be happy, others for the good health of the
body, others for life itself.
A sure knowledge of the necessary natural desires guides the choices of our life towards the goal
good health of the body and tranquility of the soul, because these things are necessary to live
a happy life.
In fact, we carry out all our actions in order not to suffer and not to have a troubled soul. Once this is achieved, every inner storm will subside, because our soul does not want anything that is lacking,
nor does he have anything else to seek for the good of soul and body to be complete.
In fact, we need pleasure when we suffer because it is not there. When we don’t suffer,
we don’t even need pleasure.
For this reason we say that pleasure is the beginning and the end of a happy life. We know
that it is the first good, innate with ourselves, and every choice of ours starts from it
on the basis of it we judge all good, placing our affections as the norm.
But precisely because it is the first good and is inherent in us, we do not allow ourselves to be attracted by all
pleasures; on the contrary, we remove many of them from us when they are followed by annoyances greater than pleasure itself.
Similarly, we consider many pains to be preferable to pleasures when the choice to endure pain brings with it greater pleasures as a consequence.
Therefore all the pleasures which by their nature are congenial to us are certainly a good; however not
we must accept them all.
Likewise, all pains are bad, but we must not try to escape them all.
These choices must be made based on the calculation and evaluation of profits.
In fact, we know from experience that sometimes good is bad for us and on the contrary bad is good.
We consider independence from desires a great good not because it is necessary to always have
only a little, but because if we don’t have much, we know how to be satisfied with a little.
We are deeply convinced that those who need it least enjoy abundance with greater sweetness and that everything that nature requires can be obtained easily, while what is in vain
it is difficult to obtain. In fact, as they both eliminate the pain of hunger, a frugal food or a sumptuous meal gives equal pleasure, and bread and water give the fullest pleasure when they satisfy those
he’s hungry.
Getting used to simple foods and frugal meals on the one hand is good for health, on the other hand it makes man
attentive to the authentic needs of life; and so when from time to time we happen to find ourselves in abundance, we know how to evaluate it in its proper value and we know how to be strong against luck.
So when we say that pleasure is the complete and perfect good, we are not referring at all to the pleasures of the dissolute, as some believe who do not know or do not share or misinterpret our doctrine; pleasure for us, on the other hand, is to have no pain in the body or disturbance in the soul.
In fact they do not give a happy life neither the banquets nor the continuous parties, nor the enjoyment of children and women, nor
enjoying a lavish table.
The happy life is instead the fruit of the sober calculation that indicates the causes of every act of choice or refusal,
and which removes those false opinions from which great disturbances of the soul arise

Prudence is the greatest good and the principle of all these things.
For this reason prudence is even more valuable than philosophy itself, and from it all the other virtues come.
It teaches that there can be no happy life if it is not also wise, beautiful and just; and there is no life
wise, beautiful and just who is not also happy. Virtues are in fact inherent in a happy life, and this is inseparable from virtues.
And now tell me: do you really think there is someone better than man who has correct opinions about
gods, who is fully self-possessed with regard to death, who fully knows what good is for
man according to his nature and does he know clearly that the goods we need are few and that we can easily obtain them, and that the evils are not limitless, but short in time or not very intense?
Such a man has learned to smile at that power – fate – which for some is the absolute ruler of
everything: in fact what happens can be explained not only through necessity, but also through chance or as the result of our decisions for which we can be criticized or praised.
As for fate, of which physicists speak, it was better to believe the myths about the gods than to be slaves to it: i
in fact, myths allowed men to hope to appease the gods by means of honors, but fate has
an implacable necessity.
And with regard to luck, we must not believe that it is a divinity, as many do – the gods in fact do nothing that is devoid of order and harmony – nor that it is a causal principle; we should not even believe that it gives men goods and evils which determine a happy life; in fact, from it come only the principles of great goods and great evils.
It is therefore better to be wisely unlucky than foolishly lucky, because it is preferable that in our actions a wise decision is not rewarded by luck, rather than a poor decision.
wise be crowned with luck.
Meditate day and night on all these things, and what is connected with them, both in yourself and with whom
it is similar to you: so never, whether awake or in sleep, you will have a troubled soul, but instead you will live like a god
among men. Indeed, the man who lives among immortal goods is in no way similar to a mortal.

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