Travels with Epicurus by Daniel Klein
In Travels with Epicurus, Daniel Klein asks whether, in our modern quest for success, we are skipping straight from a Peter-Pan style youth directly to old old age. He suggests that by doing this, we are denying ourselves important transitions through life stages. How can we accept our selves, the achievements of our lives, our human frailties and our mortality if we don’t allow ourselves the luxury of enjoying each age as we reach it? Instead, we prolong our youth so that finally, when the end of our life comes along, it takes us completely by surprise. We allow ourselves no time to sit back and reflect upon the pleasures of our youth and insist that one is never too old for anything.
Klein muses upon this subject while recalling pertinent anecdotes drawn from his stay on the Greek Island of Hydra. His observations of the older generations there and his reading of what the great philosophers have to say on the matter feed into his ruminations.
I had the good fortune to visit Hydra myself, so I am probably one of the very few people to have read this book while sitting on Vlahos beach, enjoying an iced tea. It was interesting to read Klein’s observations of the locals that he befriended during his stay, and then go back into Hydra town and observe similar people myself.
Klein travelled to Hydra armed with the wisdom of the ages, in the form of philosophy books. On a quest to figure out how to approach his own old age, he discusses with us the thoughts of philosophers such as Epicurus and Seneca. Musings include the true nature of happiness, the emptiness of constantly striving, and how the way we choose to experience time can define its speed.
I found Travels with Epicurus to be a very accessible first dabble in reading philosophy and I feel encouraged to try more in the future. Although I am far from old age myself, I found this little book full of interesting discussions and wisdom that I would do well to keep in mind when feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to “succeed” in life.
After all, what point is success if you forget to enjoy the journey?
Photo by Melissa Hill, taken on location at Hydra, Greece.