Vatican Saying 67

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Template:Vatican Saying 67


In this Saying, Epicurus conveys a liberating message: simply put, you cannot live free and also make a fortune; the business of acquiring wealth is a difficult thing.

Amassing great wealth is difficult, tells us Epicurus, without servitude to the crowds, or to those who are in power; it is telling that he colors this statement with subtly negative characterizations, such as ochlon (mobs) and dynaston (specifically dynastic, absolute, and presumably arbitrary rulers). This is clearly not the positive image of the polis that Periclean citizens would have held of themselves, or the elected officers of their city-state; it is rather the chaotic, nearly anarchic, brutish sociopolitical environment of post-Alexandrian Greece, with transient rulers hailing from this or that dynasty of epigones, and the rough, unruly crowds riding the tide of unheaval.

Turning sharply from his negative view of public life, Epicurus offers a healing consolation: those who have espoused the free life (presumably by following Epicurean teachings) do not actually need great wealth, because they already possess everything in continuous abundance. The latter (one is left to connect and conclude) is the positive outcome of managing one's desires prudently: the natural and necessary ones are easy enough to satisfy at no great cost; specifically the continuity of their satisfaction, or rather the certainty that one has what one needs, and will most probably continue to enjoy the same satisfaction, yields the ultimate peace of mind, ataraxia. Beyond that, there are no pressing needs; self-sufficiency is tantamount to abundance.

Raising the bar yet one notch, Epicurus offers a paradigm of higher yet self-sufficiency: even if one were to come to great wealth by chance, one would still not need to hold on to it. Better to share it with one's neighbors, advises Epicurus, thereby gaining their goodwill.

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