Friday, 10 October 2014

Ancient wisdom that provides modern, practical advice

"May prosperity, whose end is woe, never be mine," wrote Euripides in the year 435 B.C. "I do not wish such wealth that would sting my heart." These words from Euripides' play "Medea" express an all too common attitude towards wealth and success.

Harsh actions lead to inhumane consequences

The idea is that one should refrain from desiring anything too strongly in order to prevent the pain of losing it. The fear of emotions permeates the works of Euripides. In his dramas, the warnings to his characters are always vicious, their responses harsh, and the consequences inhumane.

Euripides wrote his plays many centuries ago, but the attitudes that he portrays in his scenes have influenced writers generation after generation. Soap operas, movies, novels, and pop songs spread the belief that emotions rightly dominate our lives.

Since that idea is false, it is barely a surprise to see most of those stories end the same way as "Medea," that is, in a bloodbath.

Rational living, rational working
The wrong solution to every problem

Wild, unrestrained emotions provide the wrong solution to every problem. "You evil villain, after all I have done for you, you have betrayed me," cries Medea in Euripides' play when her lover Jason abandons her to marry another woman. "Wait, and I will pay you back as you deserve, my friend."

In the Ancient Greek play, revenge goes far beyond the level one is accustomed to see in contemporary films. Medea, after assassinating the other woman, ends up also murdering her own children. Why on earth does she put them to death? To make her ex-lover Jason suffer!

Rationality is the way to happiness
The fallacy that underlies most cases of violence

Euripides' play is tainted with understanding for the poor Medea, who doesn't know any better than to kill everyone who hurts her feelings. The notion that bruised pride gives you the right to take savage revenge is profoundly unethical and reprehensible. That fallacy underlies most cases of domestic violence.

The hardest the tragedy, the greater your need of a firm temper. The deeper the disappointment, the more urgently you should search for perspective. In difficult situations, never let your feelings take control of your life. Self-inflicted moral blindness is the worst kind of mental impairment.
The 10 Principles of Rational Living
When in trouble, stand still and think

Consider your options, assess calmly which is the best way to go, and then start rebuilding your life. Irrationality and hatred only make situations worse. "Harsh temper is an unruly pest," wrote Euripides in "Medea."

It is high time to discard abrasive behaviour and brand it as uncivilized. It is high time to reject savage responses and mark them as unacceptable. The day has come for human beings to start building their ethical ideals on nothing but reason.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


[Image by Evil berry under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]