Moving into a barrel

Annette Clancy spotted Mark Vernon’s How to Live Well in 2010. Not your typical list of new year resolutions but some thought provoking ideas inspired by ancient philosophers. This one particularly caught my eye:

Do something that will surprise your friends and you. One day Diogenes the Cynic observed a mouse running about. He was shocked at how free it was, and how inhibited he was in comparison. Immediately, he took up residence in a barrel. His philosophy was that conventions trap us. So try breaking one or two, he’d say. A real taste of liberty will be yours.

3 thoughts on “Moving into a barrel

  1. Earl Mardle

    Conventions trap us for a purpose, they make other people feel safe from us. They enable others to predict with some accuracy how we will respond to given stimuli.

    By all means become a Cynic, but don’t be surprised when the world treats you like a dog.

    Actions have consequences, the real challenge is to live with those consequences.

  2. Stuart Reid

    Well, we are still talking about Diogenes of course, but not about his more conventional friends.

    For me safety is a bit of an illusion, and even if it were attainable it may not be desirable. This all reminds me of a quote from Keith Johnstone, one of the founders of improvisation:

    “There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no’. Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.”

    Live in a barrel? What an adventure!



  3. John Dodds

    Any post featuring Diogenes is fine by me. I think Earl falls into the trap of assuming that a cynic is negative – that is a modern construction – perhaps bastardisation of the word.

    The true view of the ancient cynic is much more humanly aspirational and was captured by George Carlin when he said “scratch a cynic and you reveal a frustrated idealist.”


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