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Day 23: The Truth About Money

“Let’s pass over to the really rich—how often the occasions they look just like the poor! When they travel abroad they must restrict their baggage, and when haste is necessary, they dismiss their entourage. And those who are in the army, how few of their possessions they get to keep . . .”

SENECA, ON CONSOLATION TO HELVIA, 12. 1.b–2

If only money can buy happiness, then I would spend everything I have to buy it. But everyone knows one can’t do that. Money can only give you an illusion of happiness. Of course, people will say that you can buy it you do something good and worthwhile with it. I believe that is a very philanthropic way of thinking and one must adapt such ideas and philosophies in their life. But here also one is getting happiness by giving it away freely. No one becomes happy by hoarding it or with material pursuits for a very long time.

I consider myself well to do financially. I am not Richy rich, but I earn enough to support a decent lifestyle for myself. But if you see me at home, you will find me usually in the oldest of the rags. There was a point of time in my life when I initially started earning when I wanted to wear good clothes, be presentable always and have a lifestyle that you often see in TV and movies. And I did all of that, I pursued all these fantasies. I have a cupboard full of clothes that I rarely wear, a vanity full of makeup and skincare lot of which has expired, I have gone out and spend vacations in 5 stars, spend extravagantly on a single lavish lunch or dinner, lived for 3 months outside of India in a developed country. And after all these things, the only material possession that I am proud of and I love to have is my books.

I am not at any point saying that money is evil or one should not work to earn it. Money is a necessity and a life without it is tough. One can only give the above discourse only if you have enough money in your life. The point I am trying to make is and even what Seneca means in the above meditations, who himself was one of the richest man in Rome, is that money should only serve as a means to live, life shouldn’t be served in pursuit of money.

Money only marginally changes life. It doesn’t solve the problems that people without it seem to think it will. In fact, no material possession will. External things can’t fix internal issues.

Ryan Holiday
Published inPhilosophy & IdeasStoicism

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