Seneca the Younger was an advisor to Roman Emperor Nero, a playwright and an investor; an accomplished and respected man. Yet it is his writings on Stoicism (a philosophy of life) that though written over 2000 years ago have stood the test of time.
It is Seneca’s writing on ‘Philosophy and Riches’ that I am going to introduce you to today as he questions in the pursuit of wealth, what is enough?
Seneca offers the following insights:
• Once you are ‘rich’, what next?Seneca questions in the continual pursuit of riches, what is the end that is being pursued? He articulates that if each day we are dissatisfied with our current financial position but instead expect satisfaction when we have future wealth, when will we stop? By the time that future imagined financial position comes, it will now be the present moment and there will still be further riches to strive for, resulting in a constant state of discontentment - ‘change the age in which you live and you have too much, while in every age, what is enough remains the same’.
• Acquisition of riches doesn’t relieve troubles. Seneca emphasises that acquiring more simply changes the content of the list of things to worry about, it does not eradicate the act of worrying itself - ‘The acquisition of riches has been for many men, been not an end, but a change of troubles.’
• Each day, one doesn’t actually need that much - Seneca emphasises that an unburdened mind, with minimal anxiety is experienced by those whose seek possession of just enough, ‘nature demands but little and the wise man suits his needs to nature’.This is evermore relevant today as we are seeing a growing trend towards simplification and minimalism in 21st century society.
The resounding message Seneca leaves you with is appreciation that ‘the fault is not in the wealth, but in the mind itself, that which has made a burden to us, has made riches also a burden’. As such it is important to try and disassociate your mindset from financial circumstance, seeking to appreciate your current circumstances and enjoy what you have, resulting in happiness that is independent of whether financial possession grows or falls.
‘Why of your own accord postpone your real life to the distant future, shall you wait for some interest to fall due or for some income on your merchandise or for a place in the will of some wealthy old man, when you can be rich here and now.’
Attitude to money a complicated topic, to be interpreted each individually as we all have different responsibilities and circumstances. A simple task today is the recommendation to have a listen to Seneca’s ‘Philosophy and Riches’, one worth pondering.
Written by Emma Masding
Emma has a management consulting and creative producer background and is fascinated by philosophies of life, positive psychology and personal development. Emma is combining her interests of applying well-being theories to practical life with a love of writing to blog for Yoke
NB: All quotes are from Seneca’s Philosophy and Riches writing. To listen to an audio reading of the Philosophy and Riches, find it here on the Tim Ferriss podcast http://fourhourworkweek.com/2016/04/10/on-philosophy-and-riches/