It’s Christmas time and for most people who celebrate it, it’s about spending time with family and friends, eating lots of food, and gift giving.
In most places, the gift giving is an important part of Christmas – a new TV, an expensive piece of jewellery, fine clothes. You make a list of all the things you want. You give it to your loved ones. You wait, you wish, you hope. Until Christmas day arrives and you race to open your presents. But wait, you haven’t got what you wanted; “oh no…socks…again“!
How do you feel when you don’t get what you want? Upset, angry, disappointed? Does it ruin the rest of the Christmas period for you?
This pain comes from our own internal desire. We are the cause of our own suffering. Not the gift, not the gift giver, but ourselves and our own wanting.
There’s an ancient Greek philosopher who would have something to say about this. His name was Diogenes of Sinope, who lived around 400 BC and was one of the founders of the philosophy of Cynicism.
Reject Material Comfort
Diogenes believed that in order to be happy, we must reject all material comforts. We must live as nature had intended us to live.
He believed that in order to lead a good life that is worth living, we must free ourselves from the external restrictions imposed by society, and from the internal discontentment that is caused by desire, emotion, and fear.
In order to be truly happy, we must live a simple life, governed by reason and natural impulses. We must reject conventions without shame, and renounce the desire for property, riches, and comforts.
Dog Like Cynicism
Diogenes was the first of a group of thinkers called the Cynics, which is where the word cynicism comes from. ‘Cynic’ comes from the Greek meaning of “dog-like”, which reflected the cynics dog-like determination to reject all forms of social customs and behaviours.
However, Diogenes was a controversial figure, and took the Cynic way of thinking to an extreme. He went against anything that society ‘imposed’ on him. So much so, that he chose to live on the streets, apparently in an old barrel. He would only eat discarded scraps of food found lying around. He was not afraid to say what he thought, and on the rare occasions that he actually did wear clothes, he would only wear filthy rags.
Reduce Your Desires
Reduce your desires for things and you will be happy. Gifts, property, and money won’t buy you long term happiness; they are only a temporary fix.
Know that if you are disappointed because you don’t get the gift you want at Christmas, this is on you. It is your desire, your wanting, that is causing you pain.
Try and take a leaf out Diogenes’ book: be content with what you have, desire little, free yourself from your own emotions. But maybe, ignore the other stuff he did; like sleeping in a barrel and eating food out of bins.