Posted by: atarimonos | March 1, 2010

De laetitia

When someone asks me “Are you happy?” I always consider Solon’s response to Croesus the King of Lydia: ” Call him, however, until he die, not happy but fortunate.” [Full dialogue found in Herodotus’s Histories 1.29-33] For those of us who do not pour over classical texts such as Herodotus’s “Histories”, Solon is best known as reformer of 6th B.C.E.  Athenian laws. Here’s the abridged version:

Athenian Citizens: Solon save us from the Draco’s laws. They’re soo draconian

Solon: Sure … there. Here’s a couple of pillars. They’ve got some words. Follow them. By the way, I’m going to go for some travel. P.S. While I’m gone no one is allowed to change my laws. Awesome. Toodles.

There may have been some more dialogue, but I wasn’t there. I’m just reporting. Anywho, Solon goes on a worldwide tour going through Egypt north to Lydia (modern  Turkey/ancient eastern Persia). Where he meets Croesus the King of Lydia who asks him: “Who’s the happiest man?” To which Solon replies with the two common tales of Tellus and the brother Cleobis and Bito. Enumerating each persons’s manifold moments of merriment. In any event, Solon admonishes the king for his believing a king’s wealth is enough to purchase happiness. Reminding our wayward regent that, contrary to popular belief, money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness (though it may help) and that the true measure of one person’s life can only be reckoned at the very very end. Quite literally.

Why so dour mr-gabour? I’ve taken to this reflection for two reasons: First, my mother recently asked me the question. Second, I recently had the pleasure to watch a Japanese film entitled “Departures“. Concerning a cellist turned … the best word for us would be an en-tomber [one who puts a body into a casket] but it is much much more than that. I darn’t attempt an explanation. Instead, I will but recommend renting the DVD at your earliest convenience [“Your last purchase and someone else chooses” Departures on Coffins].

How’s this all come ’round to happiness? Far be it from me to be cynical, but we all speak in euphemism about the finality of death. So rather than commend ourselves on our ability to obfuscate reality, remember that we make our own happiness, be it for the moment or even a lifetime. Be content that when the final bell tolls: our lives are measured, remembered, and lived.



  1. Sometimes you are very funny and very you. “…I wasn’t there. I’m just reporting.”

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