Alexander and Diogenes

Alexander [the Great] appeared before the Greek leaders in Corinth, they greeted him warmly and paid him lavish compliments- all of them, that is but one. A funny fellow, a philosopher named Diogenes. He had views not unlike those of the Buddha. According to him, possessions and all the things we think we need only serve to distract us and get in the way of our simple enjoyment of life. So he had given away everything he owned and now sat, almost naked, in a barrel in the market square in Corinth where he lived, free and independent like a stray dog.

Curious to meet this strange fellow, Alexander went to call on him. Dressed in shining armour, the plume on his helmet waving in the breeze, he walked up to the barrel and said to Diogenes: ‘I like you. Let me know your wish and I shall grant it.’

Diogenes, who had until then been comfortably sunning himself, replied: ‘Indeed, Sire, I have a wish.’

‘Well, what is it?’

‘Your shadow has fallen over me: stand a little less between me and the sun.’ replied Diogenes.

Alexander is said to have been so struck by this that he said: ‘If I weren’t Alexander, I should like to be Diogenes.’

Source: “A Little History Of The World” by E.H. Gombrich

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(moral: it is essential that we differentiate between our wants and our needs. I am not one to depart easily from my computer but I do know the difference between what I need to survive and what I want in my life. When you can walk away from that which you feel attached to deeply you are leaving behind a part of yourself, is this contradictory, yes. But facts are that the only things you need to survive are food, water andΒ air. Therefore find a balance between the two and you may live a more tranquil life. Each of us are as different as the stars in the sky, so what works for some may not work for others. I am not suggesting you become a monk and throw everything away unless that is what you are compelled to do.)

Alexander and Diogenes is one of the most well-discussed anecdotes from philosophical history. Many versions of it exist. The most popular relate it as evidence of Diogenes’ disregard for honour, wealth, and respect. Philosophical thought in the Middle Ages agreed with Seneca in particular: Alexander, who boasted that no-one could surpass him when it came to liberality, was surpassed by Diogenes, who proved himself the better man by refusing to accept from Alexander everything except those things that Alexander could not give. Diogenes requests that Alexander return the sunshine to him, it being something that Alexander cannot give to him in the first place; and the implication of the tale is that all good gifts come from God.

have a simple day

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