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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Need v. Greed: One paper plate at a time

Bust of Seneca (Photo by Calidius)
Long before Mahatma Gandhi pointed out that “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed,” Lucius Annaeus Seneca (the Younger) had warned:  For greed all nature is too little.  

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Seneca was “a major philosophical figure of the Roman Imperial Period.” He has made “a lasting contribution to Stoicism” and “speaks to some distinctly modern concerns.”  Within his Letters, Seneca distinguished between that which is “valuable” (e.g., health and
wealth) and that which is “good” (virtue).  Although people tend to believe that happiness depends upon the acquisition of “valuables,”
Seneca contends that it is virtue – and virtue alone – that truly makes for happiness.

However, Seneca concedes that it takes most humans quite a while to fully realize this.  As humans grow and mature, their powers of rationality hopefully follow suit.  Finally, an understanding evolves in which a person “comes to acquire the concept of the good.”  No longer will that person fall back upon misguided notions such as “money brings happiness.”

All well and good – but what to do in the meantime?  While waiting for Stoic rationality to fully kick in, perhaps the ripened wisdom of MSN’s Frugal Cool Donna Freedman can assist with the readiness phase.
Freedman seems to agree that happiness does not depend upon material possessions.  She recently
published at list of 16 things you don’t need and urges folks to “Resist!” their lure.  These unnecessary
things include the following:  bottled water, paper plates, sandwich bags, paper cups in the bathroom,
and disposable hand towels.

Freedman then raises a question that’s as practical as Seneca’s are philosophical.  She asks:  How do you suppose people managed before greeting card companies made birthday cards “from the cat” or
“from me and the dog”?


Copyright July 11, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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