Free Lunch Owns You

Seneca, Moral Epistles 42.7-8

“Our stupidity is clear from the fact that we think we are purchasing only those things we spend money on. We consider those things free we pay for with our very selves. These are the kind of things we would refuse to buy  if our home had to be given in exchange, if some profitable or pricy holding were required, yet we are super eager to acquire them through anxiety, danger, giving up all shame and freedom and our free time–so much so that there’s nothing anyone treats more cheaply than themselves.

So, let us behave this way in all our plans and actions: just as we usually act when we approach some conman for a purchase, let us see how much is asked for what we want. Often the highest price is paid for nothing. I can show you many things for which searching and acquiring takes away our very freedom. We would be our own, if we did not have these things.”

Ex eo licet stupor noster appareat, quod ea sola putamus emi, pro quibus pecuniam solvimus, ea gratuita vocamus, pro quibus nos ipsos inpendimus. Quae emere nollemus, si domus nobis nostra pro illis esset danda, si amoenum aliquod fructuosumve praedium, ad ea paratissimi sumus pervenire cum sollicitudine, cum periculo, cum iactura pudoris et libertatis et temporis; adeo nihil est cuique se vilius.

Idem itaque in omnibus consiliis rebusque faciamus, quod solemus facere, quotiens ad institorem alicuius mercis accessimus; videamus, hoc quod concupiscimus, quanti deferatur. Saepe maximum pretium est, pro quo nullum datur. Multa possum tibi ostendere, quae adquisita acceptaque libertatem nobis extorserint; nostri essemus, si ista nostra non essent.

Picture of oil painting. Abstract with three figures in the foreground, others behind, and a waving, orange and purple background
Edvard Munch, “Anxiety,” 1894

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