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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Response to Seneca Reading - Day 2

"The thought for today is one which I discovered in Epicurus; a for I am wont to cross over even into the enemy's camp, – not as a deserter, but as a scout. 6 He says: “Contented poverty is an honourable estate.” Indeed, if it be contented, it is not poverty at all. It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.

What does it matter how much a man has laid up in his safe, or in his warehouse, how large are his flocks and how fat his dividends, if he covets his neighbour's property, and reckons, not his past gains, but his hopes of gains to come? Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough. Farewell." - Seneca - Letters - II. On discursiveness in reading

The constant acquisition of more, the discontentment that is rife in our society and fuels the consumer driven race for things and variety of experience often drives us to be on a continual treadmill of change.  I have a small study that houses my piano, a leather couch and six tall bookcases, almost to the ceiling in height, and those shelves are overflowing with books.  Now books in themsleves are wonderful things BUT if the desire to have outweighs the desire to read those books, that is were the problem can be seen.  The root of the "sickness" can be found in the desire to acquire and possess rather than to possess with the intent of using.  Holding ones literary tomes with an open hand, with a willingness to be open to gifting a book if you have learned the lessons that it holds for yourself is a healthier type of ownership.  In our household the majority of books are held as an item in a collection to be admired rather than read.  Antique or hard to find collections of books such as the Harvard Classics, The Great Books, The Shelf of Fiction, Easton \press editions, etc. line our bookshelves. I must remember to look at all of my books with the eye of "do I love it?", if not, "do I need to read it?" and if it does not fit either of these requirements I must be willing to give it away so that someone who needs to read the book has the opportunity to do so.

This sickness that I can see the hintings of in my own book collection can also be seen in other aspects of my life.  My life being a microcosmic example of the macrocosmic Society as a whole.  The need to acquire without true need fuels our capitalistic economy, driving the real estate industry alone to billions of dollars being spent on an annual basis, often resulting in soaring debt loads.  Many times in our lives we leave the status quo to branch out into a new home, new wardrobe, new furniture, new life partner, new pet, new "insert X here" without truly requiring the item that we have pursued and possessed.  I wonder how many times we have medicated a sense of lack with purchasing something new in our lives?  How many times have we numbed ourselves with the drug of "affluenza" in order to divert our attention from changing/examining aspects of our lives that we are not comfortable dealing with?  How many times have I numbed my own self from learning an affirming life lesson by satiating my disatisfaction with a new purchase, experience or lifestyle?

If we could allow ourselves to just stay long enough to listen to our inner voice, allow our mind to be still enough to puzzle out the root of our disatisfaction would we be able to make small course corrections more easily?  Would simply "being in the moment" allow us to make lasting changes that would cause us to be content where we are and with what we have?  We are like sail boats requiring adjustments in the sea that we live in, small course corrections, in order to reach our goals.  Rather than taking our boat out of the sea, getting the boat onto a trailer, driving miles and miles to a new body of water, then going through the difficult launching process, having to seek a new mooring spot, etc. let's thrive where we are.  Let's be still enough to be able to recognize the good in where we are and just be.  Let us allow ourselves to put down enough roots in order to thrive rather than uprooting ourselves whenever we feel the slightest wind or a bit of driving rain.