Diogenes and Alexander the Great Essay

Freedom is the right to live as we wish.
Epictetus

Every living man has his own way of thinking, certain rules of conduct and mentality. We all have a different frame of reference and that is basically why our understanding of some abstract idea differs greatly from that of our neighbor’s.

The story of Diogenes and Alexander the Great is a wonderful illustration to my previous statement. In the story, two notions of life, happiness and freedom are depicted. One is that of Diogene, the famous wise man of Ancient Greece, to whom “men came from all parts of the land to see and talk”. The other is of Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, the outstanding ruler and one of, if not the most successful military commanders in world’s history.

The story says “Diogenes was a strange man”. His sayings that “no man needed much” sounded odd in the ever-material world and also his life conduct of sleeping in a barrel, which he rolled about from place to place were unacceptable to the citizens of ancient Greece. Diogenes’ understanding of freedom and happiness laid in his days spent sitting in the sun, surrounded by people and saying wise things to them. Diogenes was enjoying his life very much, because it was his freedom – the right to win as one wants.

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Alexander the Great, who came to the city, where Diogenes stayed, approached him with the desire to help the wise man with anything he ever wanted. Diogenes, who was lying in the sun near his barrel at the time the king arrived only asked for the ruler to step aside a bit, not to “keep the sunshine” from him.

In its most general meaning, freedom means “the condition of being free of restraints”. Diogenes is a homeless wise man, enjoying his life so much that he could not care less for anything but the sun shining on him. Alexander is a rich and successful ruler and warrior. They have different positions in the society of Ancient Greece. Still, Diogenes enjoys popularity, respect and admiration no less that the great emperor.

Alexander, being happy with his life and satisfied with past achievements, had a chance to measure his own freedom compared to that of Diogenes’. This meeting uncovered the truth of being: there is always a farther step into happiness. If one has everything and is happy, he might be happy without anything. For, indeed, the greatest things in our life are given at no expense: sun, water, air, wind, greenery, birds and animals – and all the other wonderful aspects of nature.

Alexander does not disown his life, power, achievements and successes but he admits that it he had nothing of that he would have wanted to live like Diogenes.

Restrains make our life more complicated and burdensome. They might take the shape of any material thing: money, commitments, position, name, etc. Only those who realise restrains are the burdens that keep us from being truly happy are real wise men.

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