When Alexander the Great was coming to India he met one great man, Diogenes. In their dialogue there is one point which is relevant. Diogenes asked him, “What are you going to do after you have conquered the whole world?”
Alexander said, “After I have conquered the whole world, I am going to relax, just like you.”
Diogenes was having a sunbath, naked. He lived naked, by the side of a river, and he was lying in the sand enjoying the morning sun and the cool breeze.
Diogenes laughed and he said, “If after conquering the whole world you are just going to relax like me, why not relax right now? Is conquering the whole world a precondition for relaxation? I have not conquered the whole world.”
Alexander felt embarrassed because what he was saying was right. Then Diogenes said, “Why are you wasting your life in conquering the world — only to relax, finally, just like me. This bank of the river is big enough, you can come, your friends can come. It is miles long and the forest is beautiful. And I don’t possess anything. If you like the place where I am lying down, I can change!”
Alexander said, “Perhaps you are right, but first I have to conquer the world.”
Diogenes said, “It is up to you. But remember one thing: have you ever thought that there is no other world? Once you have conquered this world, you will be in difficulty.”
It is said that Alexander became immediately sad. He said, “I have never thought about it. It makes me feel very sad that I am so close to conquering the world … and I am only thirty-three, and there is no other world to conquer.”
Diogenes said, “But you were thinking to relax. If there was another world, I think first you would conquer that and then relax. You will never relax because you don’t understand a simple thing about relaxation — it’s either now or never. If you understand it, lie down, throw these clothes in the river.
If you don’t understand, forget about relaxation. And what is the point in conquering the world? What are you going to gain by it? Except losing your life, you are not going to gain anything.”
Alexander said, “I would like to see you again when I come back. Right now I have to go, but I would have loved to sit and listen to you. I have always thought of meeting you — I have heard so many stories about you. But I have never met such a beautiful and impressive man as you. Can I do anything for you? Just a word, a hint from you, and it will be done.”
Diogenes said, “If you can just stand a little to the side, because you are blocking the sun. That will be enough gratitude — and I will remain thankful for my whole life.”
A bit more of Diogenes' philosophy and way of life here.
Below is part of an e-mail I sent my cousin several years ago. We had been sharing articles about sports figures and topics we followed obsessively much of young lives on through college. This cousin shared the tale of Diogenes and Alexander the Great.
funny re Diogenes and Alexander the Great.... For years in college and some beyond, I was heavy into those names you mentioned....and the Forbes Top 400 list and more. It's so drilled into our minds, but this compulsion to idolize certain people or "right ways" of living can be very damaging. What's the point of outward success if there's inner turmoil?!? I no longer define success and happiness the way I used to. I'm sure you feel the same to some degree. It takes a lot to know yourself and to know how to live authentically. More challenging and tougher, yes, but deeply satisfying.