"Of all the means which wisdom acquires to ensure happiness throughout the whole of life, by far the most important is friendship." Epicurus 371-270 B.C
Epicurus is often misquoted in the context of culinary pleasure or hedonism, but this is a gross misrepresentation of a complex and radically opposing view to all of his contemporaries including Plato and Aristotle- a view that everything that is, is the sum total of our sensory perception combined with "the mind's eye", and that the ultimate happiness occurs when all these senses are pleasured. For Epicurus, and his disciples like me!, its when GOOD FRIENDS, GOOD FOOD AND GOOD CONVERSATION is enjoyed in a beautiful environment.
I devoted 18 hours this weekend to the pursuit of hardcore Epicureanism.
From Sydney's finest seafood restaurant (PIER) where even the fish are killed thoughtfully "iki-jime style" by specially-trained fishermen to ensure minimal stress to fish and flesh, to a self-confessed kitchen-klutz cooking her first meal for friends today, at the age of 55 and in a borrowed house with 6 of us staying for 6 hours and the best ever time! There's a deeper story there, but it proves, with friends, you can take risks, be yourself, expose your vulnerabilities and know that even if you stuff up completely, they won't care because they came for you!
A common thread through many of these interesting friends is a colourful life full of diversity. There's poverty, hardship, migration, success, riches, loss, death, alcoholism, divorce, marriage, hardship again, success again, marriage again, divorce again, bankruptcy, stock exchange listings, to BRW list of wealthiest...all coupled with incredible minds, resilience, sincerity, humour, humility, and humanity.
From a tough childhood in the poorest of poor in Nova Scotia and daily beatings by hoodlums to a brilliant legal practice in Australia, from Catholic backwaters in Ireland to a female director on several boards in an era where such occurrences are still a miracle; from Australia's most prestigious event management company to a risky business venture that flopped and wiped out a lifetime's accumulated wealth, but not the friendships that mattered; from prospecting for months in tents in the remote Yukon or steamy Borneo to CEO of a global mining corporation...but not all were high-flyers, some just like me, but all offering warmth and something of themselves. How blessed am I to have such friends, break bread with them, share their stories, pain and pleasure and share mine with them?
The thing I enjoy most about these people is their groundedness. They are always the same. None of them have a need to be heard, impress, or compete. These people know who they are, don't have to prove a damn thing to anyone, and are genuinely interested in others, no matter how humble. They listen with great attentiveness, and look to learn what they can. They are widely read, have a deep knowledge of politics, world events, social issues, open minds with personal views balanced by perspectives of both sides, whether the Middle-Eastern war or environmental degradation in our own backyard, Sydney Harbour.
They also give back. Without fail, every single one is involved in some or other community activity (not high-visibility glamour causes for show -just the local Rotary club table at the markets once a month or reading to the Alzheimer patients at the local home) that requires a commitment of personal time, not dollars.
Epicurus - mate, you got it! There is no greater gift than the great conversation of brilliant minds, enjoyed in the warmth and depth of friendship, while feasting on yummy food and wine, under a clear blue sky and warm sun on an azure harbour.