As I prepared for retirement about a year ago, I wondered what to put on my calling, or business card. Retired didn’t seem right, even if accurate. It tells nothing about what I do, as I thought the card should. When a doctor retires, she is still a physician. Others who no longer practice their vocation often can still rightfully be called, say a pilot, but not necessarily an airline pilot. He may even continue to fly airplanes.
With tongue in cheek, I listed my position of expertise as Leisure Aficionado. Also on the card, I listed three skills. One was Pleasure Seeker. I found reactions to that interesting and would often ask, “Don’t you pursue things that give you happiness and pleasure?” Apparently, some people only interpret a pleasure seeker as immoral. Unless your name is Church Lady, even sex is both moral and normal. Admittedly, it gets a lot of people into trouble. Without it, however, none of us exist. My topic is not sex, or even retirement. It is the pursuit of pleasure and the reduction of pain: Epicureanism.
I am an Epicurean. I see nothing wrong with that and even see it as positive. In my house I have food and drink, some of which has minimal or no nutritional value. But I like them and they bring me a certain amount of pleasure. I also have substances that have value in the reduction of pain. Chances are that you do too.
Epicureans are disciples or students of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. In the more modern sense, we are people devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially derived from fine food and drink both in a person’s taste and, as it often relates to delight-providing establishments, restaurants. Synonyms for epicureans could include hedonist, sensualist, pleasure-seeker, sybarite, voluptuary, bon vivant, and bon viveur. More related words are epicure, gourmet, gastronome, connoisseur, and gourmand; a generous, life-loving epicurean. Much of how we use the term invites thoughts of fine food and drink. I personally favor the adjective Epicurean to mean leaning more toward an understanding of Epicurus and his ideas.
Of course, there are problems with excess. Health factors such as weight gain, allergies, addictions, and waste leading to environmental damage can be consequential. But those problems are about excess, not pleasure or the relief of pain. Epicureans are not opposed to common sense and we applaud evidence-based solutions to problems.
I’m in good company with my pleasure seeker philosophy. Other adherents to the teachings of Epicurus included the poet Horace, whose famous statement Carpe Diem (“Seize the Day”) illustrates the philosophy quite well, in my opinion.
I’ve had new cards make up. They have my photo, name, contact information. The job title on the card is “Writer” – nothing more. That is what I consider myself to be, because it brings me pleasure. While it also brings me pain of a certain kind, Epicurus had an answer for that too. If the result of the pain is pleasure, in the end it is good.