Do They Own You? | Daily Stoic (

To the Stoics, there wasn’t anything wrong with having money. Marcus Aurelius came from money. So did Cato. Seneca came from money and also made a lot of it. In fact, pretty much all the Stoics except for Cleanthes and Epictetus were incredibly rich.

​Money, nice stuff, living the comfortable life…this was not necessarily the problem.

The problem was the dependence it engendered. The problem was the insatiability that seemed to come along with it. The problem was the fear and jealousy it encouraged–the fear of losing it all, the lust to have more than someone else. It didn’t make you freer, as we talked about last month, but less free, less risk-averse, less connected.

“Slavery,” Seneca would write, “lurks beneath marble and gold.” The things we own…end up owning us. Because now we can’t live without them, now we identify with them, now we’re worried someone will take them from us.

For the Stoics, money, success, and power had to be viewed with a kind of detachment. It was fine if life had given it to you, but you had to understand that life could also take it back (as it did for Zeno and later for Seneca). You had to understand that it didn’t say anything about you as a person, that it didn’t make you better or worse than anyone else. In fact, it might make it harder for you to be a good person because now you have temptation and corruption.

We must not be owned by our possessions. We must not be enslaved by our success. We must remain indifferent to them, our eyes locked on the only thing that matters: Virtue.

scabrous-leper avatar

@randomwritings Always a good reminder...

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