Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Count No Man Happy Until the End Is Known

My father passed away last month, following a short illness. He was 82. He lived an independent life, loved by his children and grandchildren.

I would also say he lived a happy life. Not in the fleeting, clappy-happy sense that seems to be the modern understanding of the word, but in the Classical sense, best articulated by the philosopher Solon in his famous exchange with King Croesus.

The king demanded to know if he was the happiest man alive (not least because of his power and wealth), but Solon answered that he did not know - could not know - until he saw how life would end for Croesus: his good fortune might well give way to tragedy. Instead, Solon told Croesus of those he had known, ordinary people, who had lived a full life - raising their children, succeeding in the world, loving and being loved in turn - before they died. These were the people Solon judged to be happy. Croesus was not impressed: though according to the historian Herodotus he finally understood when he was taken prisoner by King Cyrus after a disastrous war with Persia.

My father, with my mother, gave my sisters, my brother and me life and love - worth vastly more than the fortunes of Croesus. And now he has gone to a well earned rest, after a well lived life.

In the end he was happy.


  1. Lovely tribute Gerard and an illustration of the consolations of philosophy even in darkest moments. Best Regards and condolences,

  2. Thank you for your kind thoughts Liam - much appreciated.


  3. My condolences on your loss, Gerard.

  4. Really sorry to hear this Gerard, my own father passed away 2 years ago, so I have some sense of your loss. Hope your family is ok. Stephen


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