The acquisition of riches has been for many people, is not an end, but a change, of troubles; For the fault is not in the wealth, but in the mind itself.
If you have nothing, before anything else, seek understanding first.
On Philosophy & Riches
Cast away everything, rather that you may be wise; strive toward a sound mind with all your strength; If any bond holds you back, untie it, or sever it.
“But,” you say, “my estate delays me; I wish to make such disposition of it that it may suffice for me when I have nothing to do, lest either poverty be a burden to me, or I myself a burden to others.”
Take my advice; call wisdom into consultation; it will advise you not to sit for ever at your ledger; the pursuit of riches have shut off many people from the attainment of wisdom; poverty is unburdened & free from care.
When the trumpet sounds, the poor knows that they are not being attacked; when there is a cry of “Fire,” they only seek a way of escape, & does not ask what they can save.
If you wish to have leisure for your mind, either be a poor fellow, or resemble a poor soul; Wealth cannot be helpful unless you take pains to live simply; & living simply is voluntary poverty.
Away, then, with all excuses like: “I have not yet enough; when I have gained the desired amount, then I shall devote myself wholly to philosophy.”
Yet this ideal, which you are putting off & placing second to other interests, should be secured first of all, you should begin with it.
You retort: “I wish to acquire something to live on.”, Yes, but learn while you are acquiring it; for if anything forbids you to live nobly, nothing forbids you to die nobly.
There is no reason why poverty should call us away from philosophy, – no, nor even actual want; For when hastening after wisdom, we must endure even hunger; Even though we starve, we must reach that goal.
Will any fellow hesitate to endure poverty, in order that they may free their mind from madness?, Hence one should not seek to lay up riches first; one may attain to philosophy, however, even without money for the journey.
Nay, your plan should be this: be a philosopher now, whether you have anything or not, – for if you have anything, how do you know that you have not too much already?
If you have nothing, seek understanding first, before anything else, But, you say, I shall lack the necessities of life, In the first place, you cannot lack them; because nature demands but little, & the wise ones suits their needs to nature.
If, however, one means of existence are meagre & scanty, one will make the best of them, without being anxious or worried about anything more than the bare necessities; one will do justice to their belly & their shoulders; with free & happy spirit they will laugh at the bustling of rich people, & the flurried ways of those who are hastening after wealth, & say: 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 soul, when you can be rich here & now.
Change the age in which you live, & you have too much; But in every age, what is enough remains the same.
I shall borrow from Epicurus:
Just as it matters little whether you lay a sick person on a wooden or on a golden bed, for whithersoever they be moved, they will carry their malady with them; so one need not care whether the diseased mind is bestowed upon riches or upon poverty.
Their malady goes with the person.