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Words of Wisdom

Excerpts from “A Conversation Among Five Travelers Concerning Life’s True Happiness” by Hryhorii Skovoroda (vegetarian)

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Hryhorii Skovoroda, was an 18th century philosopher, poet, and composer of religious music. A number of his songs can be found in his writings, and several of them have been adapted to Ukrainian folk music. Skovoroda’s work contributed to the culture of both Russia and Ukraine. He is considered to be one of the key philosophical figures during the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern time. His work also revealed a deep belief in Godliness and a life of spiritual rather than material value. Skovoroda’s writings are in Socratic dialog form and are genuinely imaginative, witty, dramatic, and always have a theme that highlights happiness and appreciation of life. He has been called a “Socrates” both as a moralist and one whose work is intended to stimulate thought and self-introspection. We now share with you excerpts from his writings on “A Conversation Among Five Travelers Concerning Life’s True Happiness.” Wisdom: “Wisdom is like the sharp and far-seeing eye of the eagle, and virtue is like manly arms joined to the nimble legs of a deer. This divine union is vividly depicted in the following fable.” “‘That is not the end of the matter,’ said the blind man, ‘you are a light and precious burden to me: I shall carry you, my treasure, on my back. Let your clear eyes be the eternal masters of my body and a head to all my members. Put an end to the torment of this primordial darkness that hounds me inhumanly along the empty path of the body’s distractions. I am your steed; mount upon my shoulders and guide me, dearest brother and master.’ ‘I shall mount up willingly, my brother, in order to show the truth of the word of God written by the author of Proverbs: ‘Brother helped by brother is like a firm and tall city, strong like a well-founded kingdom.’” Nature and Happiness: “Nature, our most merciful Mother and the Father of all our pleasures, has opened the path to happiness to all creatures that breathe without exception. But the trouble is that we do not try to find out precisely where happiness lies. We grab and clutch what merely presents an attractive appearance as though it were a firm foundation. Lack of counsel is the source of our unhappiness. It makes us prisoners, representing the bitter as sweet and the sweet as bitter.”
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