The Parthenon of Athens. Perhaps Mediocrites came here on an average kind of day?
Paging through my archives, I stumbled across this little biography that I wrote some decade ago on the little known Greek, Mediocrites. This may not accord with the name and purpose of this blog -- live well, so as to die well -- but it is fun all the same, and surely humor is part of living well:
Few cultures have given to us a treasury of wisdom as rich and bountiful as that of Ancient Greece. The philosophy of Socrates, Plato, and particularly Aristotle continue to this day to be of considerable interest to erudite men around the world. The more developed philosophical views of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas owe a great deal to Plato and Aristotle, respectively. It is hard to fathom what Western Civilization would have been like if these men had never lived.
This brings us to a philosopher who was a contemporary of the intellectual giants mentioned above. He is little known, but his teachings are still relevant today, and we would do well to mine the depths of his humble wisdom; This man is Mediocrites.
Mediocrites was born in Athens in 370 BC of a middle class family. He was always about average when it came to intellectual and physical ability, never finishing last, or triumphing as champion. In the year 351 BC he was married to a woman whose lineage was much like his own, and who was described as "moderate in talent and beauty ... always just good enough, but never great at what she did." Mediocrites died in 305 BC and the age of sixty-five, which was about the normal lifespan of a man of that day. He was a common and comfortable man, and never did anything particularly notable. Without the few examples of his rather uninspired writings, we would probably never have known he existed.
Listed below are the few fragments we have of his works:
I. "One must always attempt to occupy the mean in everything."
II. "Never strive for majesty...yet never sink to the depths of failure."
III. "No one falls farther than the man of greatness."
IV. "Spectacular success brings ruin to a man, just as failure hastens misery into the house."
V. "Only the fool accepts the very worst of everything."
VI. "To be tolerable is to be perfect."
VII. "With the run-of-the-mill comes happiness."
VIII. "The wealthy are strangled by their wealth, the poor by their lack, the powerful by their power, the slave by their bondage, the strong by their strength, the sick by their illness, the intelligent by their intelligence, the stupid by their ignorance, the beautiful by their beauty, and the ugly by their hideousness."
IX. "Success requires excessive toil and begets pride; failure turns life bitter."
X. "To be excellent is to be hated and plotted against."
XI. "Too much is expected of the best, and expectation is the father of anxiety."
XII. "The worst have not the minimum required to be happy."
XIII. "Flee from extremes as from the plague, for they are just as much the killer of men."
XIV. "Never aspire to anything but to be 'average' and 'good enough,' and one will be content."