father of cynicism
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
  click here for a "printer friendly" version

by Simon King




The pack of dogs surrounded the barrel, which was comprised of old pieces of timber, a dirty rug and a figure who was ensconced within it. The pack yelped, shrieked and dispersed once the figure rose. This figure went by the name of Diogenes, a notorious eccentric, Cynic philosopher and vagrant. However, calling him a philosopher might be a stretch for some people. Unlike Plato, whose work Diogenes dismissed as ‘a waste of time,’ Diogenes did not write detailed treatises which explored the nature of metaphysics, ontology or ethics. On the other hand, although he did not write, he was not an orator in the style of Socrates, who engaged in dialectical discussions and arguments. Diogenes was a philosopher-as-performance-artist, someone who questioned the values of others through his disconcerting behaviour and antics. He lived a life of deliberate poverty because he detested acquisitive hedonism and he performed stunts which challenged the conformity of others.

Diogenes was a haggard and scrawny old man and his skimpy rag barely covered his body. The weather was boiling and sultry. He walked away from his home – his barrel – and his beloved dogs followed him. He reached the market place, stripped his flimsy robe and he was completely naked. Some of the people raised their eyebrows whilst many winced and covered their eyes. Many of the market dwellers were completely used to this disgusting spectacle. Diogenes started masturbating in broad daylight in front of everyone. Once he finished, he turned back and the pack of dogs followed him. One of the women in the market place called him a scoundrel, but he ignored her and returned to his barrel. Masturbating was a very easy way of satisfying his desires – if only he could satisfy his hunger by rubbing his stomach?

According to Diogenes, an individual could be rich and satisfied with very few material possessions. Additionally, an individual who lived like this should do everything in public. Diogenes behaved like this so as to shock conventional social attitudes. To become a true individual, one had to turn away from society and reject its values. His onanistic performances were meant to shock civilised society – and so they did.

Diogenes took out his lamp and knapsack – his only possessions apart from his dogs – from his barrel. He was enjoying the sunlight, so he thought that he would bathe in it. This was a permissible luxury.

A group of people approached from the distance. They were led by a virile man who had bronze body armour, a bronze helmet and a red robe on top of it. This man led a group of soldiers who were dressed in a similar way and who wielded lances. 

Diogenes grunted and evinced an air of indifference. ‘Diogenes… I am Alexander the Great.’

‘So what?’ barked Diogenes. The throng of soldiers laughed and seemed nonplussed.

Alexander was used to obsequious servility, but he still smiled. ‘I have come from Corinth… We are about to go on an expedition against Persia. Many statesmen went over there to congratulate me… Many philosophers went to congratulate me and offer me words of advice. Aristotle, my faithful teacher, was there. The greatest minds were all there and they all offered me encouragement. We are prepared to conquer more and more of Europe… and now we want to reach further afield… and conquer Persia… But we noticed a glaring omission on this occasion… the great Cynic philosopher, the great Diogenes of Sinope, was not present… So we came all the way to Isthmus to speak to you.’

Diogenes continued to bathe in the sunlight and appeared equally indifferent. ‘Why do you want to conquer so much land? Why do you want so much wealth? Wealth is for scoundrels.’ He said.

‘Well… Once you annex territories… you want more… So as to instil others with Hellenic values and our great culture…’ Alexander said.

‘And wealth? Why do you want wealth? I am a rich person and all I have is my barrel… and my dogs. I am a rich person, even though I lead of life of deprivation and hardship.’

‘Diogenes… I want to conquer more of the world… as much as I like… And I want more wealth… More luxuries… More women… More buildings… More cities…’

Diognes looked at Alexander with contempt. ‘And, even though you have all those things… You are clearly not satisfied… You want to conquer more land… You want more castles… More food… More buildings… You want more and more and more and you are still not satisfied… Me? I am satisfied with my loyal dogs… With my barrel… And the occasional wank.’

The throng of soldiers burst into laughter. ‘Diogenes, I am the most powerful man in the world… You lead a life of deprivation, but you are clearly wise… What do you want from me? I can give you anything you want!’ Alexander waved his arms around as he said this.

Diognes grimaced and shouted: ‘Step away from my sunlight!’

The group of soldiers once more burst into laughter whilst Diogenes looked indifferent and slightly annoyed. ‘Well, you are clearly blocking his sunlight, Alexander!’ one of his courtiers told him.

Alexander smiled and the whole group turned back and walked away. ‘Well, what do you make out of that exchange?’ the same courtier asked Alexander.

‘If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes!’ the king said.

But could Alexander be Diogenes? The latter led a life of extreme privation and asceticism whilst the other figure led a life of abundant luxury. Once he offered him anything he wanted, Diogenes rebuked him. All this no longer mattered. The soldiers had now met the mad street philosopher and they were now destined for Persia. Diogenes, meanwhile, would continue to enjoy his sunlight.




Rate this story.

Copyright is reserved by the author. Please do not reproduce any part of this article without consent.


© Winamop 2020