Sunday, October 21, 2012

A new, modern English translation of "Letter to Menoeceus" by Epicurus

While I'm a firm believer that all anyone could ever need to know about philosophy can be learned by watching "The Big Lebowski" (the Dude abides!), it's sometimes interesting to go back to the primary sources.  Here is a fresh, modern English translation of one of the VERY few extant writings of Epicurus, a letter in which he proffers some straightforward advice to a young protege on how to live a fulfilling life.

Curiously, Epicurus's own words seem to contradict the common notion that he is an atheist, a lush, and a hedonist.  He simply advises his young friend (1) to think properly "godly" thoughts about God, (2) not to waste time and energy fretting about death, (3) to get a grip on the possibility that "not every pleasure is to be chosen" and "not every pain is always to be shunned", and (4) to consider that a simple life (eschewing excess) is probably the best life.  So, you can see that the same messages are there: you can either read/listen-to this letter from Epicurus, or ("if you're not into the whole 'brevity' thing") you can watch "The Big Lebowski" a few times (properly stocked up on unexpired half-and-half, Kahlua, and vodka).  Either way, the wisdom of the ages is yours!

Thanks to Peter Saint-Andre, for creating this new translation of the "Letter to Menoeceus", and for placing the translation into the public domain!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Lincoln Triptych

In preparation for next month's Lincoln-palooza (the release of Steven Spielberg's new movie), I made a contribution of the three defining speeches of the Lincoln presidency to the next LibriVox "Short Nonfiction Collection" (vol. 27, which will be published to the LibriVox catalog soon).

I think it safe to say that we'll be treated to the full Daniel Day-Lewis rendition of the Gettysburg Address, and probably get some major chunks of the second inaugural.  But I found it fascinating to go back and study the complete first inaugural address, which starkly shows us Lincoln the pragmatist, making a desperate pitch to avert war and save the Union, to the point of not standing in opposition to a constitutional amendment formally codifying the rights of states to permanently maintain within their borders whatever "peculiar institutions" they might be sustaining there.