Contentment comes with success whereby one feels happy with their current situation in life. Success has been defined as doing what one really wants to do, and in the story of Diogenes and Alexander, Highet compares two personalities who meet under peculiar circumstances. Diogenes was a Greek philosopher while Alexander the great was the lordly ruler of the Greek empire.
Diogenes lived a simple of a beggar. He had little regard of the basic needs of human beings, choosing to cloth himself with a single blanket, since God had not provided a way for humans to protect themselves from the cold, like he had for the animals (Highet 8). Diogenes assumed the lifestyle of animals, especially the dog, arguing that there was no need for extravagance. He had no furniture and slept in a cask that he moved everywhere with, and placed it where he wanted to sleep.
He survived on borrowed food from the people. Many people had lived the way he did, mainly the refugees, but he did so by choice, since his teachings emphasized that people should live a natural life, he chose to teach the people by example. According to Highet, Diogenes lived a contented life, since he could adopt and practise his teachings, without worrying about a family or work.
Alexander on the other hand had little choice of his upbringing, as he was the son of King Philip. He had been taught by the greatest mind in Greece at that time, Aristotle. He was knowledgeable in many fields including poetry, philosophy, scientific research and military, being termed a magnificent commander (Highet 9).
Alexander too, lived a contented life, at least according to the time of the story, at age twenty. He was skilled in many fields and was a great military commander. He was also honourable, as could be seen in his self control, with both women and alcohol. His choice of lifestyle, which involved battles, was an indication of his selflessness.
While Diogenes admired Hercules for his might and concern for other people, Alexander admired Archiles, who defeated the Asian armies. The two people are similar in that they fought for what they thought was right, in their own way.
Diogenes lived a life similar to that of dog, trying to influence people that they could live a natural and happy life. While on the rich streets of Greece, he taught people his doctrines, and those who cared to listen followed him. To expound on his doctrine, Diogenes wrote plays, poems and essays (Highet 8).
He emphasized a natural life, saying that it was normal and could not be evil or shameful. His teaching emphasized that a free life had no conventions, complexities and extravagances. He taught people that riches brought worries, since people spent more time and energy protecting what they had. He tirelessly taught his doctrines to those who chose to listen, in an effort to open the eyes of the people.
He was contented with his mission work, since he chose to continue instead of living a hidden life, away from the ignorant people, like others before him who had given up and isolated themselves from the people (Highet 8). His followers were also a motivation factor to him, since they appreciated his doctrines, and Alexander acknowledged this when he took one of them as a philosophical interpreter.
Alexander also laboured to help mankind, choosing to be at the forefront of battles, while he could easily sit back and let others fight. Alexander had many responsibilities bestowed upon him, and through his education and training, he acquired enough knowledge to handle himself, and take care of his people. Alexander was contented with his life, since only a truly free man could identify another free person, as seen when he indicated that if he were not himself, he would be like Diogenes.
While both Diogenes and Alexander lived free lives, Alexander must have been more content than Diogenes. Both people lived as they chose to, keeping to their beliefs, though Diogenes had a difficult time getting his doctrines across, since he was at times chased with stones (Highet 8). Though he was able to get a few pupils, he had to persevere, and at his level of a beggar, he still influenced people.
Alexander on the other hand was readily accepted by the people, and he had an easier time influencing them. His life was more contented since he had more power to conquer, and the masses trusted him due to his status. He brought more change, based on his authority and position, as an icon and ruler for the people, having greater responsibilities and expectations from the people, he was able to achieve.
Highet, Gilbert. “Diogenes and Alexander.” American Heritage Magazine 1963.