Tea or Coffee?

Can a small change make big differences? I’m trying the switch from coffee (lattes, usually) to tea, and I think it might.

I have been spending $20-30 a week on coffee, so it should mean saving money. I’ll be getting fewer liquid calories, so it should help my diet. It’s lower in caffeine, and has theanine, so it may help me be calm and sleep better.

My hope is that this little change will help tip the balance, on emotional scales that have been rocked too much lately by added stress. I’ll report back once I’ve had a chance to confirm, but it already seems to be working.


Principal Doctrine #5

Over time, I will be examining each of Epicurus’ 40 Principle Doctrines, as given to us by Diogenes Laertius, the primary source for original writings from Epicurus. In these posts, I will consider the meaning of each doctrine, and how it applies to life today.

5. “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly. Whenever any one of these is lacking, when, for instance, the man is not able to live wisely, though he lives honorably and justly, it is impossible for him to live a pleasant life.” –Epicurus

In other words: Only if you live a virtuous life, will you lead a truly happy life.

More specifically, Epicurus calls out the virtues of Wisdom, Honor, and Justice. In the Greek sense, I believe this means being intelligent and rational, seeking to avoid confrontation and retaliation, and not being what we might call unfair. Personally, I like to think there’s also an undercurrent of patient humility to this, in keeping with Socrates’ conception of wisdom. By speaking of living such a life, rather than possessing the virtues, I also suspect he’s speaking both about our intentions, and the actual actions we take.

What would it be to live such a life?

A just and honorable person does not seek out strife or confrontation, and especially doesn’t seek to balance the scales of fairness by pulling someone else down. He neither seeks for his actions to harm others, nor allows seeking his own ends to take from others. As a result, he doesn’t bring himself into conflict, find himself living with remorse for cruel actions, nor make himself unhappy thinking of what others may have that he does not.

If I’m right about this, I think this is especially relevant in our lives today. How often do you see someone being unkind to another, because their own lot isn’t “fair” or in retaliation? What do we sow, when we react to unfair situations with anger and pettiness, rather than walking away?

A wise person thinks rationally about his situation, and acts based on understanding. He doesn’t let his short term motivations lead him to actions that will make him more unhappy in the long run. He doesn’t let what he wants now cause him pain later. That kind of reflection motivates Epicurus’ entire enterprise, to allow our smarter selves to see why we don’t need to allow ourselves to be so unhappy.

This principle, I think, is timeless. We should absolutely act in a way that takes into account how we will feel. However, we all too often act in a way motivated by how we feel in the moment, without thought for what will come next. Patient reflection could save us so much trouble.

Have you seen this principles in action in your life? Can you think of a time where you were willing to be a little cruel to someone else, because what you experienced (perhaps because of them) wasn’t fair or pleasant? Can you think of a time where you made a decision in haste, that turned out to have the opposite effect of what you wanted?

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments. (You’ve heard enough about mine this week.)


A Moment: To Bed

Something else you will see here from time to time are glimpses at a Moment I find relevant to our topic. These posts will be like Observations, but frankly much shorter.

When I arrived home this evening after a long day at work, I realized that–  while I may want many things– the one and only thing I really need, in this moment, is more sleep.

So, I am going to bed. It’s that simple sometimes.

An Observation: The Mushroom Burger

One form of post here will be Observations on daily life, considering some little thing that has happened and how I reacted to it, and then reflecting on how well– either intentionally or accidentally– I applied Epicurean principles.

Today, I found myself taking my lunch fairly late in the afternoon, after a busy morning at work. As hungry as I was, I decided to enjoy a burger from one of those natural-and-local fast food places. I’m partial to a turkey burger with cheddar, sauteed jalapenos, and carmelized onions.

Yeah, I know. Great.

Unfortunately, when I got it back to my desk, I discovered something unsettling. In place of the delicious sauteed jalapenos, I found a heaping portion of, basically, mold. Well, mushrooms.

Yeah, I know. Gross.

Since the place wasn’t far, I walked back to see what I could do about the situation. I explained that my order was wrong, and that I wasn’t mad, I just think mushrooms are gross. They were good about it, once they realized I wasn’t being snippy, and the fresh replacement burger even included a second side of fries.

Walking back to my desk, before I even dug in, I realized this was a perfect moment to think about how my actions and attitudes align with Epicurus’. Had I faltered, and made myself unhappier than I needed to, by worrying about not having what I wanted, rather than appreciating having what I needed?

To a degree, I clearly did. I had my disappointed moment, and even griped a little, because the sandwich in front of me was quite unlike the one I had imagined I was about to dig into. I wasn’t satisfied with what I had, I was imagining what I had lost.

On the other hand, it wasn’t the lack of a favorite ingredient that caused me to walk back. In the end, I’m afraid I just can’t stomach mushrooms. Barbs about what kingdom they belong in aside, there’s just something about them that stops me from thinking of them as food.

In the end, I think I did all right, but not great. I didn’t let my momentary disappointment get to me, and I acted calmly to restore myself to contentment. Had I only wanted something simple, perhaps a plain burger, then I wouldn’t have been as prone to disappointment.

The true measure is that, in the end, I wasn’t unhappy– I had lunch, I was glad to see the restaurant treated me well, I was amused to have some free french fries, and I had a chance for a little more time outside away from my desk.

Good enough for me. What do you think?