The “Tetrapharmakos” – The 4 Ingredients In A Recipe For The Happiest Life
“Don’t fear god, don’t worry about death, what is good is easy to get, what is terrible is easy to endure” – Epicurus
The Tetrapharmakos was common practice in Ancient Greece as being the cure to emotional distress. Quite literally it was the 4 (Tetra) cures (Pharmakos) to unhappiness.
The system was designed by Greek Philosopher Epicurus, and has been around for a millenia.
Let’s go through the four points of this Epicurian idea and see how it is relevant in today’s society. The beauty of the Tetrapharmakos is that it is simple to digest yet many of us complicate its implementation
1. Don’t Fear God
God is a tricky subject because of such varying beliefs that people have and our widespread differences in faith. What most of us believe though is that God is a benevolent force and we can “come to him” without fear of judgement. This is the premise of confessionals in church (Christianity) and its equivalencies in other faiths. In the belief system of Ancient Greece, the gods were perfect and by being perfect had no interest in the shortcomings of man. If we have the belief that the gods are benevolent, loving, perfect, and non judgemental why do we undertake the psychological turmoil that is being judged through our lives and either confined to heaven or hell? Why would we feel that if we are imperfect human beings or that if we have to endure pain or suffering that god is punishing us? The time spent worrying about god (which is indefinable, or at the very least non judgemental and rationale by modern human being deifinition), can be used more productively.
2. Don’t Worry About Death
Epicurus believed that once we died, we felt no pain or worry. There was no mention of heaven or hell or an afterlife or reincarnation. While we exist, we exist and once we cease to exist we no longer are cognizant that we cease to exist and therefore we can feel no sadness, pain, worry or fear. If you carry the belief of reincarnation or an afterlife, think for a moment that there is a great chance that at this very moment you are a reincarnated being. Do you feel any pain or angst or worry about your past life? No because your consciousness regarding your past life (If this is your belief) has ceased to exist.
The fear of death drives away our happiness in that it confines us to hiding away and not experiencing life to the fullest, pushing experiences that make life worth living to the back burner. We waste so much time worrying about the unknown destination, that we miss out on the journey. You wouldn’t skip to the end of a book and read the last 3 pages over and over again would you? And that’s with having the pages already filled. We write the book of our lives one day at a time, so relax.
Epicurus said “As long as you are alive, you are not dead, and should not worry”
3. What Is Good Is Easy To Get
Epicurus believed the simple things that required minimal effort to get, were the best things in life and available to all people. He prioritized friendship, food, water and shelter. He also believed that we didn’t need to have all of these simplicities in excess, and that infact an excess of these things would bring unhappiness.
The modern day relevance of this may be harder to grasp, because to be quite frank we in the west are a generation of spoiled wasteful brats. We don’t take the time to appreciate the little things, and focus on the things we don’t have. We focus on the wrong things whilst the right things we should be appreciative of are “givens”. It’s no secret that A-List celebrities and multi – millionaires can be some of the most miserable people on earth, and resort to drugs, alcohol, and material possessions to bring them fulfillment. Some of the happiest nations on earth have the lowest GDP’s, and it is because they prioritize gratitude, living within their means, and not over indulging or consuming in excess.
4. What Is Terrible Is Easy To Endure
We can endure much more pain than we think we can. Even if our pain is a kind of chronic suffering, we as human beings have the strength to face it. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, bolder, more well rounded, and compassionate, all of which are noble traits. 100 years from now, everyone you know, love, or hate will be gone. This is a sinking yet oddly comforting feeling where we are forced to look at the reality of our situations and liberates us into being more carefree and authentic with the time we do have.
Remember, terrible things come and go, and terrible things that stay test the strength that all of us have.
This too shall pass.
Skip The Skepticism
These are things we have probably all heard before but dismissed, or maybe never heard together, but the 4 simple components that make up the Tetrapharmakos.
It’s simplicity can be intriguing to some or off putting for others who don’t believe it to be so simple, but it takes a certain mental shift to truly grasp these ideas.
It worked in Greece a Millenia ago, and can be even more relevant and useful in today’s non stop society.
Skip the skepticism, and make an attempt to implement these 4 ideas. It may very well be the best thing you ever did.