Posted By DMB

Looking back through my early Blogs for a misremembered quote I realized that I now spend, like many of the aged, half my time looking for mislaid items; only to find half-way through that I’ve forgotten what the mislaid item I’m searching for is. So…, misremembered, mislaid, and forgotten; old age in a nutshell. But luckily as I read Epicurus he reminds me that it really doesn’t matter anyway. What matters is sitting outside in the cafés in the sun, eating olives, drinking a glass of wine and talking to old friends.

After questioning myself about what I miss most in this enforced solitude, I began questioning those friends I speak to on the phone. I found that all my friends said the same thing. What we all miss most is sitting in cafés with old friends, talking over food and wine. Everyone said that, without prompting.

Then I finally found the missing quote – it was Epicurus, from that marvelous philosophic study by Daniel Klein I read a few years ago. Here it is again from my Blog of October 2016:
October 18, 2016

The “Book of the Month” for this month is Travels with Epicurus by Daniel Klein (Penguin). A marvelous mediation on old age wherein we learn that Epicurus was not an Epicurean. He believed in simplicity in food and drink. And that what was important was not what you ate but who you ate with. He also believed that old age was not to be avoided – by pretending that seventy was the new fifty, but that it should be embraced as not only an important stage in life but the most important age. For only the old can dismiss all the pointless vanities and stupid ambitions which drove us in our youth. And embrace the important things, which are companionship, conversation over food and drink with friends and simply embracing the beauties of life which are there for all if we only slow down and look. All obvious, even trite – except Klein makes it fascinating, so much so that I read a page and think for half an hour before going on. And finishing it once, and having bought a dozen copies for friends, I’ve started it again.

A word to the wise – from Epicurus, one of the truly wise ones.


So this book whose wisdom so impressed me that I quoted it four years before this terrible plague – turns out to be what I and all my aged friends have discovered on our own as a result of the plague.

And for me another thing which it so clearly illustrates is the edge that all readers of books have: the open door we share, where all the thoughts and feelings and wisdom of our forebearers is stored for us to discover and benefit from. “Books fall open and we fall in,” goes the old children’s poster I’ve never forgotten, that wonderful description of the world of reading.

So what’s become clear to me is that while we all need some solitude and reflection we humans also need the company and presence of our fellows.

As McLuhan pointed out, movies and TV are passive time-fillers compared to the active engagement which is reading. It’s not hard to conclude that all these electronic means of communication we’ve developed are, like TV, passive things to fill time. We humans need to engage. We need to read to engage our minds with our world and our past. And clearly, we need other humans to engage our whole beings.

That being true, we must today be losing some essential sustenance that our souls need, without which we must be threatened with some essential part of us dying by atrophy.

That, of course, is what the mental health practitioners warn us of in times like this. We’re missing something essential and we don’t know what it is so we become a bit crazy, anxious or depressed, and bad things occur.

This plague is affording us an opportunity to re-examine our lives and make some corrections. I’m back rereading Klein’s wonderful book which is full of clues from Epicurus.

All us readers have that great gift: we can seek answers in the books. 


Interviewer: “What then would you say is the source of most of your work?”
Dorothy Parker: “Need of money, dear.”


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