However, I also got a chance to get a peek behind the curtains of their envious lives… and what I saw was failing relationships and divorces, sudden deaths of spouses, children with impossible birth defects, ongoing health problems, and all the same maladies that the rest of us suffer every day.
The only difference was that these folx had the financial resources to not have to worry about quotidian things like medical care, mortgages and rent, utility and food bills, car repairs, emergency travel, etc… essentially, all the things that we need to live in a modern/capitalist/Western society.
I say “the only difference” but, when we pan the camera back, we see that the “only” difference is a HUGE difference.
If you don’t believe this to be true, at the time I’m writing this, our church is in the middle of collecting donations for a community member who cannot get access to life-saving medical equipment. No applicable insurance. No rainy-day money. No nest-egg. Nothing. Anything this person had was spent when deciding “do I want clean water in my home, OR reliable hot water, OR functioning central heat.”
Note: I didn’t say AND… I said OR. Of those three things, they got to choose ONE.
Seneca, one of the richest men in Rome, noted, “... how often the occasion (the rich) look just like the poor.” (On Consolation to Helvia, 12. 1.b-2) To Seneca I say this:
Give me a freakin’ break, man.
This is the social/fiscal equivalent of “all lives matter”, and the “1%” telling the “99%” that if they just pulled themselves up by their bootstraps they’d be able to get ahead. Essentially, what we’re seeing is a blindness to the reality of things, and Stoics are ALL about tuning in to reality.
Yes, yes… gravity, age, death, and illness affects us all, but when we have the resources to address the circumstances that surround those common themes, we can focus on things above the “Basic Needs” level of Maslow’s pyramid.
Since the time of Seneca, an understanding of the nuances of wealth disparities has become more clear.
External things (like money and material possessions) cannot fix internal issues, but we can’t even get to address the internal issues when we’re struggling for the basics (food, water, shelter, safety, security).
Seneca is asserting that the only difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich simply have more money. Yes… that is true, AND those resources, and the security those resources give, can disappear at any moment for various and sundry reasons.
And yet, in the moment, the subjective, LIVED EXPERIENCE of wealth disparity is more “true” than the objective truth about money.
(See y’all tomorrow)