Daily Touch of Inspirations

August 28th: The Opulent Stoic

Ryan Holiday, The 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

The founder of the universe, who assigned to us the laws of life, provided that we should live well, but not in luxury. Everything needed for our well-being is right before us, whereas what luxury requires is gathered by many miseries and anxieties. Let us use this gift of nature and count it among the greatest things.— Seneca, Moral Letters, 119.15b

Even in his own time, Seneca was criticized for preaching Stoic virtues while accumulating one of the largest fortunes in Rome. Seneca was so rich that some historians speculate that major loans he made to the inhabitants of what is now Britain caused what became a horrifically brutal uprising there. His critics' derisive nickname for him was "The Opulent Stoic."

Senecas's response to this criticism is pretty simple: he might have wealth, but he didn't need it. He wasn't dependent on it or addicted to it. Nor, despite his large bank account, was he considered to be anything close to Rome's lavish spenders and pleasure hunters. Whether his rationalization was true or not (or whether he was a tad hypocritical), he is a decent prescription for navigating today's materialistic and wealth driven society.

This is the pragmatic instead of the moralistic approach to wealth.

We can still live well without becoming slaves to luxury. And we don't need to make decisions that force us to continue to work and work and work and drift further from study and contemplation in order to get more money to pay for the things we don't need. There is no rule that says financial success must mean that you live beyond your means. Remember, humans can be happy with very little.

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom Perseverance and Art of Living

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