Epicurus, a Hellenistic philosopher, advocated a life in pursuit of happiness. Such happiness, he believed, comes from pleasure, yet the tempering of human desires. Only when one lives modestly does one reach each the state of ataraxia, freedom from anxiety, and aponia, the absence of pain.
What is the relevance of this man who has been dead for over 2,300 years? His philosophy continues to speak to anybody who is willing to listen. In colleges across the country, students feel immense pressure to get a high GPA, become president of a club, find a significant other and do all this with some time for sleep.
While many of these things are honorable, they must be put in balance. Our campus has numerous ways to enjoy the little things in life and find a place of peace. Look around for Oles indulging themselves in the simple things and join in. Be a dreamer, a traveler, a reveler in life.
1. Enjoy nature.
St. Olaf is a beautiful campus with scenic trees and hills spotted all around Harry Potter architecture. Take an hour or so and just relax outside. Lie in the sun. Jump in a pile of leaves. Look at the sky and shape of clouds. Watch rabid squirrels fight over acorns, with the occasional dog chasing after them. Soon enough students will have the opportunity to have snowball fights and ski on the flat slopes of Minnesota.
2. Savor delicacies.
We all know that St. Olaf has great food. While students on other campuses eat poorly, we have the privilege of eating passion fruit tarts, chow mein and parmesan risotto. Speed eating the food in the Caf saves time for studying and extracurricular activities, but it rarely allows us to actually enjoy the food. Try having a meal consisting of several different dishes and savor each bite rather than stuffing it down.
3. Read for pleasure.
Not every class will have reading that interests you. Differential equations, philosophical paradoxes and cell structures are not for everyone. If you have time, trying reading books that actually speak to you. Enjoying down time with a great book can reduce stress and make the semester somewhat tolerable. It is difficult to think back to the time when reading did not require attention to every detail, but it can be a relaxing affair. Pick up some Thoreau, Chaucer or perhaps Epicurus.
4. Share the love.
The last of many possible opportunities for happiness on campus is to share it with others. You can brighten the days of students, faculty and staff through random acts of kindness and quality time. St. Olaf is a special place; do not forget to relish it before it’s too late.