These individuals have riches just as we say that we “have a fever” when really the fever has us. – Seneca
What does that mean?
As frequently happens, the Twitter quote is just a tiny bit of the full quote. In context, the quote makes a bit more sense:
“For as far as those persons are concerned, in whose minds poverty has wrongly stolen the title of riches – these individuals have riches just as we say that we “have a fever,” when really the fever has us. Conversely, we are accustomed to say: “A fever grips him.” And in the same way we should say: “Riches grip him.” There is therefore no advice – and of such advice no one can have too much – which I would rather give you than this: that you should measure all things by the demands of Nature; for these demands can be satisfied either without cost or else very cheaply. Only, do not mix any vices with these demands.”
This quote is about a lust for riches or affluence. The longer quote starts by describing those who feel they have wrongly been denied the riches they seek as in the grip of a fever.
It goes on to say that they ‘have a fever’ is backwards, for the fever for riches has taken them. In short, their fever is greed, and it has caused them to take leave of their senses.
The longer quote goes on to say that there is a difference between what life demands, and what we desire. It concludes by urging us to not confuse the two, lest the fever take us.
Why is living simply important?
This isn’t an attack on enjoying life, it is a warning that some take things too far. The pattern has been ongoing for two or three generations at least, here in the US. Many people are demanding more in their life than they can afford. Bigger houses before they are ready. Luxury cars before they have arrived.
The full paper from which the quote derives mentions an example of a thirsty person wants water, but one with the fever demands that water in a golden goblet. A starving person wants food, but one with the fever demands the finest of food. This is the difference between need and greed.
Most reasonable people understand living within their means. However, there are those who insist on living beyond. They have been taken by the fever, and one hopes they may gain wisdom before they crash and burn. The cure for the fever is common sense and simple living, but vanity and greed make for a powerful combination.
Again, this doesn’t mean you have to take a vow of poverty. That is as far in the opposite direction as the fever is in the other. Somewhere between is the proper path for you. And we will all walk a different path, as our needs, desires, and means are all different.
Where can I apply this in my life?
That would depend on how you are living. If everything is paid and you owe no money to the bank or any other people, you are already there, congratulations! However, most of us are not yet there. Houses take a long time to pay off, and even cars now can take years of payments before they are ours.
There are other expenses in our lives as well. Can you afford to eat at fancy restaurants every night, or do you cook at home from time to time? We tend to only go out once a week, and eat in the rest of the week. Not very glam, not a way to ‘see and be seen’ by all the ‘right people.’
But food is for sustenance, and that can be done very inexpensively, if we so choose. If we go too far, and let the fever take us, a lot of money can go to others so that we might feel better about ourselves. We still are full, and we still get the nourishment our bodies require.
A cheap car will serve as well as a beat up old car, so long as the service you require is transportation. If you want to impress people, you will have to pay more money, and risk having the fever take over. I drive an old station wagon (estate wagon), and it gets me where I need to go. Fortunately, I don’t need to impress anyone. 8)
Take a moment and apply that same logic to your life. Where in your life are you living larger than you can afford? For example, there are people who save up, and are careful in nearly every aspect of their lives, and use that savings to enjoy nice meals. If that is by plan, and within their abilities, that is fine.
Where do you go a bit overboard? Where might the fever have a hold on your life? Is an excess in one area balanced by simplicity in another? Or are there more on the excess side of the ledger than can be balanced by the simple on the other? This is a very personal analysis, and if the fever already has you, it might not be obvious.
Clues that you have the fever include running out of money before getting to the next paycheck, especially if it is a regular occurrence. Another is if you have some of the nicest things of all your friends. Do you make enough to afford all those things, or are you feverish with desire?
Again, I cannot make these decisions for you, you will have to examine your life and determine if the fever has taken you, or if you are safe. Take some time and consider each area of your life, and see if you are satisfying a basic need, or if you are satisfying vanity or greed.
We can live comfortable, simple lives. Yet we still want more. Beware of the fever, lest it get into your blood.
From: Twitter, @stoicrevival
confirmed at : http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Letter_119 part 12
Photo by Greg Gjerdingen
For some odd reason, my ‘related articles’ app is still face down in the mud. I hope to have something that works by early next week…