Sad About Other People’s Riches

Seneca, Moral Epistles 93.32-34

“I dare say that the soul knows  that riches are kept apart from where they are stored: the soul should be filled instead of a treasure chest. The soul should be in charge of all things and should be positioned as the owner of the nature of things so that the boundary of its realm should be the rising and the setting of the sun like the gods; that the soul may also gaze down upon the wealthy thanks to its own riches–none of them are as happy in their own possessions as they are sad about other people’s riches.

When the spirit rises to this sublime peak, it treats the body too not as a lover of a required burden but as a steward and is not subservient to the thing that it governs.. For no one is free if they are enslaved to their body. Truly,  provided you pass over the rest of the masters created by excessive concern to the body, the power it exerts is distracting yet sophisticated. From here, it leaves with an equal spirit or an exulted one, but once it has departed has no concern for the future of the flesh left behind.

But just as we neglect the clippings from our beards and hair, in the same way, when the divine spirit is about the leave the person that acted as a vessel to carry it, it cares as little as a baby just born does about afterbirth about the body, whether it is burned, or covered with stone, or interred, or fed to wild animals.”

Scit, inquam, aliubi positas esse divitias quam quo congeruntur; animum impleri debere, non arcam. Hunc inponere dominio rerum omnium licet, hunc in possessionem rerum naturae inducere, ut sua

rientis occidentisque terminis finiat1 deorumque ritu cuncta possideat, cum opibus suis divites superne despiciat, quorum nemo tam suo laetus est quam tristis alieno. Cum se in hanc sublimitatem tulit, corporis quoque ut3 oneris necessarii non amator, sed procurator est nec se illi, cui inpositus est, subicit. Nemo liber est, qui corpori servit. Nam ut alios dominos, quos nimia pro illo sollicitudo invenit, transeas, ipsius morosum imperium delicatumque 34est. Ab hoc modo aequo animo exit, modo magno prosilit, nec quis deinde relicti eius futurus sit exitus quaerit. Sed ut ex barba capilloque tonsa neglegimus, ita ille divinus animus egressurus hominem, quo receptaculum suum conferatur, ignis illud exurat an lapis includat4 an terra contegat an ferae distrahant, non magis ad se iudicat pertinere quam secundas ad editum infantem.

a pile of ancient greek coins on a black background
From Izmir, From another hoard found at Clazomenae, with coins from the 4th century BC.

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