Vatican Saying 17

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Template:Vatican Saying 17


A beautifully phrased, indeed sublime lesson of Epicureanism: it is not the young man who should be considered fortunate, but the old one who has lived his life well.

For as caring for and supportive of youth as Epicurus may have been, he also recognized that the young are unstable in their beliefs (unlike, presumably, mature Epicureans), and are therefore dragged in all sorts of directions by the whims of chance. This sort of vacillation and instability, Epicurus implies, is not conducive to ataraxia.

The old man, on the contrary, who has lived out his life well, is presented in a beautiful simile: he is like a sailor who has let down anchor in old age, as if in a safe harbor. He is to wander no more. Better yet, all those "goods" (i.e. happiness) that once seemed to him hard to attain, he now guards safely in the repository of his own grateful memory of good times past.

This admiration for old age stands in stark opposition to the worship of youth that defines much of classical antiquity's popular culture. For the average reader, conditioned to admire the ideal of young man in his prime and to abhor old age and all it brings, this Epicurean lesson would be disquieting at first, yet profoundly comforting upon later reading and contemplation.

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