For an Epicurean, somewhere there are beings that are truly at peace, are happy… The mere idea of this gentle bliss is, itself, a kind of uplifting dream. After all, we human beings know a strange thing: happiness responds to circumstances, but, basically, it is internal. We can experience it when it happens to come upon us; we can induce it with practices or drugs; but we cannot just be happy.
No, we must work to “solve the schism” between how we feel and how we want to feel. Happiness is a choice and a lifetime endeavor, and though it comes easier for some than for others there are tips and tricks we can use to trip our internal happy meters and achieve ataraxia, peace of mind, simple contentment.
Stop fearing the harmless and remote gods, he said. Stop fearing your own death, it’s not (as Wittgenstein would echo, millennia later) an event you’ll ever experience. “Life is full of sweetness. We might as well enjoy it.”
That’s Alain de Botton, author of a text I used to use in this course, and controversial proponent of religion for atheists. (Don’t confuse him with Boethius.) His interview with Krista Tippett aired yesterday again. Like Jennifer Hecht, he wants us to use philosophy to enhance our bliss and sweeten our dreams.
The dream of restorative environmentalism growing from the grassroots also continues in EEA today. We begin with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. It’s serial publication in 1962 was greeted by one reader with the claim that “we can live without birds and animals” but not without business.
Many of our fellow Americans still believe, with Mr. Mitt, that corporations really are people too. Not just legally-contrived “persons,” but individuals with rights and dignity and grace and a capacity for bliss in their own right. Dream on.