Haseeb Qureshi

The Dog of Athens

diogenes

Diogenes of Sinope was the father of Cynicism, an ancient school of ascetic philosophy. It’s easy to talk abstractly though. I like to imagine him: tattered clothes, tangled beard, a scraggly old man. In Athens, Diogenes was known unaffectionately as “the Dog.” He lived in a discarded wine tub, which he kept out in the marketplace. He possessed nothing more than his staff and cloak. He once had a wooden bowl, but upon seeing a child drink out of his hands, he discarded the bowl as an un-necessity. He was infamous for his disregard of social custom—he would masturbate in public, he would spit on rich men. He would even eat his meals in the Athenian marketplace (which was apparently a faux pas of egregious proportions). And yet, he was a man of wide and considerable repute. Of his legendary meeting with Alexander the Great in Corinth, Plutarch wrote:

Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, “Yes,” said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.” It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.”

Plutarch

For my own part, I’ve always admired Diogenes and the Cynics. Not that I imagine I’m following their philosophy. Their extreme asceticism demands far more balls than are in my possession. But I suppose it pleases me to know that men once lived who could reject the standards of society, and had the courage to live by it.

It’s been over four months now since giving away my money and starting over. The first thing I’ve realized is that even $10,000 affords me more freedom than most people have. I’ve been living cheaply, continuing to save and nurturing a small nest egg underneath me (in case I run into anything catastrophic, hopefully it will inure me from going into debt). And yet, there is little I feel I don’t have.

I’ve been eating at the same cheap cafeteria almost every day for lunch, cutting most of my other eating-out expenses. I usually only eat two big meals a day now, which saves on money (and time). I’ve been cooking lots of omelets for dinner. My mother’s been teaching me how to make other meals, but they’re works in progress.

How else has my life changed? When I wanted to write, I used to go to the UT Law Library. I’d often take naps on their couches. But that requires paying for city parking—up to $5 a day. So I’ve started going to the public library instead; I take my naps at home. Really, now that I think about it, the changes in my life haven’t been dramatic. I suppose I’ve been paring down my life in simplicity ever since I came home from Europe. I eat out less often, and I spend less money on stuff I don’t need. But most of the changes have been mental ons.

Admittedly, there are some expenses on which I won’t skimp—an exercise regimen, eating healthy food, stuff like that. The things I need to remain centered. But beyond that, not a lot strikes me as that important.

Even when I was a poker player, I always had a fondness for living simply. Every time I’d pack up my belongings, seeing them pared down to a couple bags in the back of my car—it was a good feeling. A kind of relief, really. It was a reminder that my life was small and unimportant—that it was supposed to be. When I’d drive cross-country (others would usually fly), I’d never get motels at night, instead I’d sleep in my car along the highway. I invested most of my money. I never bought much into extravagance. Even if I wanted to, I suspect I wouldn’t know what to do with the money. Excess is just a silly thing to me. Even money, at times, feels like numbers on a far away field.

Now, writing a memoir and mind coaching, eating healthy and working out a lot, volunteering and spending time with friends, I’m enjoying the process of my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever become rich again. If I do though, things will probably be different. I imagine I’ll probably be more measured in how I spend and invest it. I’ll appreciate it a lot more, I imagine. But I think, most of all, I’ll be better at putting it to good use—not just for myself, but for others.

It’s said that Diogenes died by holding his breath—at the time, considered a noble, philosophical death.

He is now no more, the Sinopean,
The staff-bearer with the doubled cloak who lived in the open air,
But has gone off because he pressed his lips and teeth together
And held his breath; for he was Diogenes in very truth,
A son of Zeus and hound of heaven.

Diogenes_Laërtius

That I might be a canine half as fine—cheers, you old dog.

-Haseeb
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7 Comments
  1. Dear Haseeb,

    I’ve read your book…and I was stunned by your eloquence, and the depth of your knowledge of the game of poker. I have read all sorts of poker books, and never before have I felt what I felt when I finished reading what you had to say. I was so impressed that I also bought the audio version of the book…which I listen to while in my car every day.

    You have a gift, my friend…and I don’t mean just in poker. Please keep writing…and know that there will be at least one Greek guy in the Chicagoland area who will be hanging on your every word.

    I wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.

    Sincerely,

    Kostas

    • Kostas,

      Thank you for your message. It always picks up my spirits to know hear someone was able to get value out of my book. It makes the whole thing worth it.

      I’m so glad I was able to teach you something, and wish you the very best in your continuing journey. I’ll continue to write too, and am glad to know that you’ll be keeping tabs on me. I hope not to let you down.

      Haseeb

      P.S. If you have the time, consider leaving a review of the book! It’s a big help to me. :)

  2. I finished reading your book yesterday. I refer to it simply as The Philosophy Of Poker. Afterward, I visited your website then starting reading your book again. I have read several poker books but I must say yours is the best. I have told friends today to read your book first. Also, I tell them they will be a better person after reading the book than they were when they started.
    I am encouraged by the book because it confirms what I’ve felt all along; my mind is the most important thing in my game.
    Thank you for writing that true gem of a book. Time for me to read it some more.

    • Edward,

      Wow, thank you. I really don’t know what to say to such high praise, haha. I’m thrilled you were able to get so much out of it, and I hope your friends will too.

      If you ever have any other questions or comments, don’t hesitate to write on here. :)

      Haseeb

  3. My name is Diogenes and I’m from Brazil. I will move to Sillicon Valley in August this year to finish my undergraduate, and searching in the web for things that would help me in this new experience bring me to you blog. I’m really want to congratulation you for share your history in your blog, you inspire me in many ways, thank you.

    • Hey Diogenes! Thank you, and I’m glad you found it inspiring. Best of luck to you in your undergraduate studies, and hope you make it to Silicon Valley. :)

      Haseeb

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