I just love this quote from Epictetus as it highlights the fact that all those cravings you seek to fulfill only detract from your freedom, in fact, they begin to enslave you. The examples are endless, but let’s take a look at a few:
- I make a modest income, but I want a $60,000 sports car, the dollar figure doesn’t really matter and is somewhat relative. I go to the bank and now have a car loan for $1.200 a month for 5 years. I think I look cool driving around town, but instead of investing that money, which might ultimately provide some actual freedom, I am a slave to my car loan.
- I decide I need to make more money, so I work harder and get promoted, but now instead of working 40 hours a week, I am working 60 hours a week. The hobbies I once had have been shelved and I hardly see my family anymore, but I make another $20,000 a year. I find that the additional money doesn’t do much for me, as I really don’t have time to spend it. My health and relationships are suffering and instead of freedom I just imprisoned myself with an occasional furlough called a vacation.
- I decide now that I am a wealthy man that I need to upgrade my spouse by marrying a much younger woman or maybe having an affair. I end up sneaking around and find a younger woman and start a relationship (affair). My wife finds out, kicks my sorry ass out of the house, and calls an attorney. Six months later my estate is cut in half and I now live in a small apartment. Oh, and by the way, the younger woman walked out some time ago, when she realized I am really not that wealthy. Of course, my children think I am an asshole and I no longer have my wonderful wife to grow old with and who has been taking care of things for me as she did in the past.
- I decided that to help me forget all the stupid decisions I made based on my desires; I would drown myself in alcohol on the weekends. Instead of helping me forget about my bad decisions, or God forbid doing something about them, I am now an addict. I did not free my mind and instead enslaved my body to what has become a serious addiction.
You might think these are silly examples of cravings that enslaved a person, but I have seen all of these as pretty common human behavior. Check yourself and determine if the things you desire are healthy and enhance your freedom or if they are imprisoning you. For most of us the more we desire, the less freedom we experience. The freest among us often have the least in material possessions and want but little. In fact, these desires that you might even consider to be fairly positive such as exercise or even enhancing your knowledge come with a price and can become an addiction.
If you want freedom desire less, appreciate what you have, and stop craving for things you don’t have.
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