Tuesday, September 13, 2016
The Quest for Simplicity Carries On
If someone explained the movement (figurative, not literal) of the Cynics to me outside of its historical context, I might easily assume it to have been founded in the 21st century. Why so? Well, in this day and age of speed, deadlines, internet, consumerism, political extremes, world news, constant noise, population density, and cutting-edge technologies, we often consider ourselves to be the most overwhelmed generation yet. Never before, one would think, would anyone have better reason to disassociate themselves from modern life and its complications; and some do. However, the original Cynics claimed this philosophy in what we would consider simpler times. In fact, when I wish I could shed the troubles of this fast-paced world, I think I would be pleased to live like your average ancient Greek for a day or two; but the ancient Greeks who decided to follow the teachings of Cynicism must have felt otherwise. I wonder what their individual conversion stories might be? What specific events in their lives drove them over the edge and towards a philosophy which literally derives its name from the animals its proponents choose to emulate?
Perhaps stress is relative. No matter the circumstances, the daily demands of life can be enough to leave a person dissatisfied, and send them on a quest for increased simplicity. For some, this quest ends with putting away the cell phone for a day, breaking from social media, asking for an extra day off next week, or a bookshelf full of half-read self-help books about achieving simplicity. As for Diogenes, his immediate followers, and many others, however, the quest proceeds to more extreme ends.