The Daily Stoic for March 25th. “Wealth and freedom are free”.
“. . . freedom isn’t secured by filling up on your heart’s desire but by removing your desire.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.1.175
In our society, there seems to be a very well defined concept of wealth or personal well-being. Conversely, today’s stoic invites us to think about these concepts in subjective terms.
In my mind, wealth and freedom are very different concepts. Hence, I’ll talk about them separately.
There Are Two Ways Of Being Wealthy
What does wealth mean? When are you considered a rich person? When you have one million dollars in your account? one billion dollars? When you own an island?
What’s your number? How many digits?
The Meaning of Wealth
One might think that wealth and richness are universal concepts, but I don’t think that’s the case.
For an American stockbroker, it might mean a big loft in Manhattan in front of Central Park, a lot of money in the bank, and a Ferrari at the garage.
For an old Finnish writer, it might mean a small house in the countryside, with a library full of books, and an office with an old laptop.
Finally, for a Thai buddhist monk it might mean a bowl full of fruits and a roof above his head.
On Being Wealthy
Are we rich by getting everything we want, or by wanting everything we have?
Since I became a digital nomad and decluttered my life, I have learned that I didn’t actually need 90% of the stuff I owned. Material belongings are not that important for me anymore. I just need a laptop and some other gadgets to work, and the clothes that fit in my suitcase.
As I’ve mentioned before, being rich for me is all about time, not money. So, am I a rich person? Do I get all the time I want, or do I want all the time I get?
I would say neither the former nor the latter. While I usually work on stuff I love -this blog, my entrepreneur projects, etc- I still don’t have all my time at my disposal.
However, I was wondering today… If I was rich -by my standards, anyway- having all the time I wanted, what would I do? And the answer was not very different from what I do now: travel, write, work on projects I love. I would probably be less worried about the bills, and would be able to completely stop for a month or two… Apart from that, my life will be very similar.
Thus, in a way, I think I am a rich person. Not probably for you, but definitely in my mind. Being rich, feeling happy and fulfilled, doesn’t depend on a concrete amount, but on a concrete mindset.
There Are Two Ways Of Being Free
Similarly, today’s stoic discusses freedom in subjective terms.
“If you chafe and fight and struggle for more, you will never be free. If you could find and focus on the pockets of freedom you already have? Well, then you’d be free right here, right now.”
This is somewhat less intuitive for me. The concept of freedom has certainly a lot more nuances.
From physical freedom, to being free to live the life we want, there’s a whole range of meanings for the word.
In my opinion, contrarily to wealth or money, we cannot really enjoy our lives if we lack freedom. I can focus on my “pockets of freedom” but, if I feel trapped in a job I loathe, and surrounded by people I hate, it’s difficult to not struggle for more.
I believe we have the right to pursue our freedom and our dreams, even if that means sacrifices, or learning to live with less. Just being content with the freedom we have been granted is sometimes not enough.
Conclusion: Wealth And Freedom Are Free… Or Not?
Today’s Daily Stoic, “Wealth and freedom are free”, discusses wealth and freedom as subjective terms. In that view, we are not wealthy or free by having all we want, but by wanting all we have.
While I can agree with the former, I can hardly apply that to freedom. I decluttered my life and became a digital nomad to not rely on money, but having time and freedom to really feel like I am a rich person.