A friend of mine who is of Greek heritage learned I would be traveling to Greece and loaned me a book to read, “Travels with Epicurus,” by Daniel Klein.
It is a small book and fits perfectly in my hands or tucked into a bag, as I’ve learned after keeping it on my nightstand for months to save it for my trip. While I have finally gotten on board with e-books, particularly when trying to travel light, I still enjoy having something to read at the beach, and nothing beats a book in print.
You agree, right?
I vaguely remember taking a philosophy class or two as an undergraduate, but I don’t really know much about the topic and don’t recall every hearing Epicurus’ name before. Nick had shared one of the book’s stories when he gave it to me. It related an encounter between a Greek American tourist and an older Greek man.
In short, the American spotted the Greek sipping ouzo while sitting in an olive grove with olives dotting the ground. The younger man asked the Greek why he didn’t cultivate the fruit to make olive oil, because the product could then be sold at great profit.
But why, the Greek asked. To make a lot money, the American replied. But what to do with all that money? Well, buy a big house and have servants that do everything for you, of course! But then what would I do? asked the Greek. The American excitedly replied: “Whatever you want!”
And the wise Greek said: “Like sit in an olive grove sipping ouzo?”
While this isn’t directly an Epicurus tale, it does personify his philosophy as I’ve come to understand it. Epicurus knew that a life focused on material possessions and the accumulation of wealth was not necessarily one that an elderly person would reflect back on and consider to be truly rich.
He said: “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” I am so on board with that philosophy.
Epicurus believed that the best possible life was one that was happy and filled with pleasure. Again, I subscribe to that mindset with enthusiasm.
It turns out that the Ancient Greek language had two different words for time. One, “chrónos,” refers to clock time or the dimension of time. It’s something measured, and it moves from future to present to past. It’s probably what most of us think of as time.
The other word though, “kairós,” is the one that maybe we should focus more upon. Kairós is more about the quality of time than the quantity, it is time that “has personal meaning as compared to universal dimension.” (Klein, Travels with Epicurus.)
If I were ever to have a word tattooed on my body, it would be kairós.
There were many reasons I made the decision to study to be a teacher. The primary one was because I knew I wanted children and I couldn’t imagine having only two weeks of vacation a year, without the distractions of work, to devote to my future family.
But it wasn’t just the amount of time, it was the quality. I didn’t want to spend my life dedicating more of myself to a career than to my family or my own interests and passions. Nearly 25 years into my career, as my middle son and I enjoy our trip to Epicurus’ homeland, I’m confident that I chose wisely.
Silvia Lilly describes herself as a “mom, librarian, and slightly obsessed runner who loves to travel and experience life.” She is a regular contributor to CixMix, but also has her own blog, DelSo, where you can read more about her travels – including her current trip to Greece.