Vatican Saying 47

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Template:Vatican Saying 47


This Saying is attributed to Metrodorus, and rightly so, considering the somewhat hyperbolic, melodramatic tone of the disciple, as opposed to the terse, prosaic one of the teacher.

An Epicurean leaves as little as possible to chance, to fortune, as is also discussed in Principal Doctrine 16. One does so neither by dreading, nor by worshipping fortune (as do the many), but by "anticipating" it. In a finely wrought methaphor, the author depicts such an anticipation as a barricade of sorts, the wise person having blocked every possible path of egress, keeping chance outside of his/her life. Continuing with the militant metaphor, such a person is determined not to surrender to chance under any circumstances.

An Epicurean, however, knows that before "that which is necessary" (i.e. death), we all "live in an unfortified city", as Metrodorus himself wrote in Vatican Saying 31. One ought not harbor delusions of immortality, thinking that all those fortifications against fortune will also serve in preventing death itself. Thus, when what is necessary as a law of nature comes along, one ought to remain in good cheer and high spirits. "Boldly spitting upon life" and those who cling on to in with some vain hopes of immortality (perhaps succumbing to this or that superstition), a true Epicurean departs from life singing a joyful paean to life, shouting out for all to hear that, yes, this life has been lived well.

Although numerous editions omit Metrodorus' contributions to the Vatican Sayings, his writing merits a more sympathetic reading than simply a test of authenticity as Epicurus' own or not. While his tone is somewhat exaggerated, the lessons he imparts are "core" Epicurean doctrine. While, that is, it is hard to imagine Epicurus himself singing songs and shouting out his proclamations, persons of different temperament might in fact do so. It is just a metaphor, after all. The essence of the Saying is preparedness before chance, and joyous acceptance of death. Metrodorus captures that essence brilliantly.

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