Epicurus, one of the first philosophers to theorise hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure), had it right: to enjoy life fully, we should be seeking pleasure everyday. By pleasure though, he didn’t mean bacchanalian orgies and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll parties, but rather the enjoyment of those simple moments that bring us contentment and true happiness, friendship and peace of mind being the pinacles of hedonism according to him.
As such, the modern definition of “"epicurean” as someone whose life is mainly devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially that derived from fine food and drink, is somehow quite unfair on Epicurus, who took a much more modest -and healthier- view of pleasure. The scent of fragrant roses, a cuddle with a loved one, rays of sunshine warming one’s skin would have indeed been more on his mind than the coke-fuelled office antics -dwarf-throwing, threesomes and all- portrayed in The Wolf of Wall Street”, an hymn to modern (if extreme) hedonism.
That said, there is nothing wrong with a bit of materialism and self-indulgence: savouring a rare bottle of wine, wearing beautifully-made clothes, going on exotic holidays or hunting for the perfect sofa are all perfectly legitimate and enjoyable ways of spending time. But a grand house won’t make you happy unless it is a home, just as a gourmet meal won’t make you as happy unless shared with family and friends.
As Joseph Addison said, “the important question is not what will yield to man a few scattered pleasures, but what will render his life happy on the whole”- something that seems obvious, but which we need to remind ourselves on a daily basis nonetheless if we want our life to have true meaning- and happiness.