Vatican Saying 30

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Template:Vatican Saying 30


Attributed to Metrodorus (by Stobaeus and others), this Saying is often omitted from "strict" anthologies of Epicurea. On one hand, it does cohere with usual Epicurean admonitions against the vanity of excessive preparation for life, as falsely expected to take place at some indefinite point in the future, while one ought to be living in the present; on the other hand, the poetic hyperbole regarding the "lethal poison of birth" strikes many as overly melodramatic for the sanguine, untroubled countenance of an Epicurean. The state of being poisoned is certainly an unpleasant one, and there is no suggestion that Epicurus viewed life so negatively.

The salient point, of course, is the inescapable of our mortality. We ought to live the present, not become overly occupied with "preparations" for some putative, future living, simply because we are mortal, and thus an excessively long-term outlook may well be futile. Stripped of Metrodorus' poetic contributions, the core message is solidly Epicurean.

Bignone suggests that by mentioning these "preparations", Metrodorus may have been speaking against those who spend this, earthly life, in preparation for some supernatural, post-mortem, other life. If so, this Saying may be an indirect assault on the Orphics, who believed in reincarnation. Further yet, the Orphics believed that, before souls were to be reincarnated, they drank the "water of Lethe" (Oblivion), forgot all they had experienced in their past life/lives, and reappeared anew. If this is what Metrodorus had in mind, his distorted "poison of birth" would have been a clear attempt to ridicule Orphic beliefs, instantly replacing them with a physicalist, naturalist view of biological birth, life and death, plain and simple.

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