Diogenes the Cynic wanted human beings to reclaim their freedom and dignity and live with honesty and self-respect. He was often seen on the streets of Athens carrying a lamp in his hands in broad daylight and saying: “I am looking for an honest man.”
Diogenes the Cynic
Diogenes the Cynic was an ancient Greek philosopher who wasn’t afraid to speak his Truth, but also a FREE man who spoke harshly of those who were willing to give up their freedom and liberty for temporary pleasures and safety. (I guess things haven’t changed much in the last 2400 years).
He wanted human beings to reclaim their freedom and dignity and live with honesty and self-respect. When ‘Alexander the Great found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, “I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave.‘ And ‘when Plato styled him a dog, “Quite true,” he said, ” for I come back again and again to those who have sold me.”‘
“But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.” and Diogenes replied, “If I wasn’t Diogenes, I would be wishing to be Diogenes too.”
Seeing that Athens had become corrupt with vanity, greed, and ignorance he would walk through the streets of Athens carrying a lamp in his hands in broad daylight and saying: “I am looking for an honest man.”
He wanted to find an honest man. And it is my hope that his words will inspire all of us to become ‘that honest man.’
20 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from Diogenes the Cynic
1. The foundation of every state is the education of its youth. ~ Diogenes the Cynic
2. Stay away from flatterers, for they will devour you.
“It is better to fall in with crows than with flatterers; for in the one case you are devoured when dead, in the other case while alive.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope
3. Circumstances don’t make a man, they reveal him as he is.
“The sun, too, shines into cesspools and is not polluted.” ~ Diogenes the Cynic
4. A wise man knows that he knows nothing.
“I know nothing, except the fact of my ignorance.” ~ Diogenes the Cynic
5. It takes a wise man to discover a wise man. ~ Diogenes the Cynic
“Wise kings generally have wise counselors; and he must be a wise man himself who is capable of distinguishing one.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope
6. Fear is the mark of the slave.
Friends of Diogenes wanted to ransom him, whereupon he called them simpletons; “for“, said he, “lions are not the slaves of those who feed them, but rather those who feed them are at the mercy of the lions: for fear is the mark of the slave, whereas wild beasts make men afraid of them.”
7. To be great is to encounter violent opposition from mediocre minds.
“It is not that I am mad, it is only that my head is different from yours.” ~ Diogenes of Sinope
“When some one said, “Most people laugh at you,” his reply was, “And so very likely do the asses at them; but as they don’t care for the asses, so neither do I care for them.”~ Diogenes the Cynic
9. The bodies of those that eat much are full of diseases.
“As houses well stored with provisions are likely to be full of mice, so the bodies of those that eat much are full of diseases.” ~ Diogenes the Cynic
10. He has the most who is most content with the least. ~ Diogenes the Cynic
11. He who gives his freedom for safety gets none of them.
“Plato said “If you had paid your respects to Dionysus, you would not be washing lettuces now,” to which, with equal calmness, Diogenes replied, “If you had washed lettuces, Plato, you would not have had to pay your respects to Dionysus.” ~ Diogenes the Cynic
“Aristotle has to dine when Philip thinks fit; Diogenes can dine at any time he chooses.”
A philosopher named Aristippus, who had quite willingly sucked up to Dionysus and won himself a spot at his court, saw Diogenes cooking lentils for a meal. “If you would only learn to compliment Dionysus, you wouldn’t have to live on lentils.” The reply “But if you would only learn to live on lentils, you wouldn’t have to flatter Dionysus.”~ Diogenes the Cynic
12. A child can teach us much about the plainness of living.
Seeing a child drinking from his hands, Diogenes threw away his cup and remarked, “A child has beaten me in plainness of living.”
13. There is only a finger’s difference between a wise man and a fool.
There is only a finger’s difference between a wise man and a fool. ~ Diogenes of Sinope
14. Let no one take from you what they cannot give.
“I have nothing to ask but that you would remove to the other side, that you may not, by intercepting the sunshine, take from me what you cannot give.” ~ Diogenes the Cynic
15. No man is hurt but by himself. ~ Diogenes of Sinope
16. If you take no notice of the practice of virtue and study only those who write about it, it’s of no use.
“A student asked to borrow a book, he replied: “You are a silly man. If you wanted figs you wouldn’t be satisfied with painted ones. But you take no notice of the practice of virtue and study only those who write about it.”
17. A man should live with his superiors as he does with his fire
“A man should live with his superiors as he does with his fire; not too near, lest he burn; not too far off, lest he freeze.”
18. The majority of people are more impressed by Circus than by Virtue.
“Discourse on virtue and they pass by in droves. Whistle and dance the shimmy, and you’ve got an audience.”
19. To master yourself is true power.
After being captured by pirates, Diogenes was asked what he can do and he replied: “I can govern men; therefore sell me to one who wants a master.”
20. You will become a teacher of yourself when for the same things that you blame others, you also blame yourself. ~ Diogenes the Cynic
BONUS: Diogenes of Sinope Quotes
“I am Alexander the Great,” said the monarch to Diogenes. “And I am Diogenes the Cynic, called a dog because I fawn on those who give me anything, I yelp at those who refuse, and I set my teeth in rascals.” replied Diogenes.
“But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.” and Diogenes replied, “If I wasn’t Diogenes, I would be wishing to be Diogenes too.”~ Diogenes the Cynic
“One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings.”~Diogenes the Cynic
Plato had defined Man as an animal, biped and featherless, and was applauded. Diogenes plucked a fowl and brought it into the lecture-room with the words, “Here is Plato’s man.”
He was breakfasting in the market place, and the bystanders gathered round him with cries of ” dog.” ” It is you who are dogs,” cried he, ” when you stand round and watch me at my breakfast.”
When someone reminded him that the people of Sinope had sentenced him to exile, he said, “And I sentenced them to stay at home.” ~ Diogenes Of Sinope
‘Once he saw the officials of a temple leading away someone who had stolen a bowl belonging to the treasurers, and said, “The great thieves are leading away the little thief.”’ ~ Diogenes Of Sinope
When asked how he would like to be buried. He replied ‘face downwards’, when asked why, he explained that the Macedonians were rising in power so rapidly that the world would shortly be turned upside down and he would then be the right way up.
“And at last, becoming a complete misanthrope, he used to live, spending his time in walking about the mountains; feeding on grasses and plants, and in consequence of these habits, he was attacked by the dropsy, and so then he returned to the city, and asked the physicians, in a riddle, whether they were able to produce a drought after wet weather.
And as they did not understand him, he shut himself up in a stable for oxen, and covered himself with cow-dung, hoping to cause the wet to evaporate from him, by the warmth that this produced. And as he did himself no go good in this way, he died, having lived seventy years;”
“You are a simpleton, Hegesias; you do not choose painted figs, but real ones; and yet you pass over the true training and would apply yourself to written rules”
“We come into the world alone and we die alone. Why, in life, should we be any less alone?”
“No man is hurt but by himself. …Literally by how he interprets what happens to him. If he focusses on how it could have been better, he will be hurt. If he focusses on how it could have been worse, he will be happy. The same is true for women too.”
“Fools! You think of “god” as a sentient being. God is the word used to represent a force. This force created nothing, it just helps things along. It does not answer prayers, although it may make you think of a way to solve a problem. It has the power to influence you, but not decide for you.”
“To become self-educated you should condemn yourself for all those things that you would criticize others.”
“When I look upon seamen, men of science and philosophers, man is the wisest of all beings; when I look upon priests and prophets nothing is as contemptible as man.”
“Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice.”
“When people laughed at him because he walked backward beneath the portico, he said to them: “Aren’t you ashamed, you who walk backward along the whole path of existence, and blame me for walking backward along the path of the promenade?”
“As a matter of self-preservation, a man needs good friends or ardent enemies, for the former instruct him and the latter take him to task.”
** What about you? Out of these many lessons, was there any that touched your heart or caught your attention? If there is, make sure you share your comment in the comment section below
~love, Luminita 💫