Contemplating Seneca #6   How Much Is Enough?

Nature’s Provisions

There was a time when food was just food. If you were hungry, your goal was to satisfy it. It didn’t matter if it was meat, vegetables, or bread. What mattered was removing the emptiness in the belly.

Nature had a way of providing what we needed. Granted, we had to work for it, often barely making do. But as a species, we survived. We took what we could get in the season we were in.

He who has much desires more—a proof that he has not yet acquired enough; but he who has enough has attained that which never fell to the rich man’s lot—a stopping-point.

Seneca, Letter 119: On Nature as Our Best Provider

Going Beyond

Somewhere along the timeline, we changed. No longer were we content with what Nature gave us. We wanted more. We wanted to fill our plates to overflowing going back for seconds and thirds. We wanted every day to be a feast day gorging ourselves beyond what Nature intended.

There is therefore no advice—and of such advice no one can have too much—which I would rather give you than this: that you should measure all things by the demands of Nature; for these demands can be satisfied either without cost or else very cheaply.

Hunger is not ambitious; it is quite satisfied to come to an end; nor does it care very much what food brings it to an end.

Seneca, Letter 119: On Nature as Our Best Provider

We became pickier. No longer was it enough to just have food, we had to have it on the Fine China so our guests could see how well-to-do we were. We insisted on the delicacies, the fancy pastries, and the decadent desserts. Nature provided what we needed; it gave us a limit. Yet we broke the limit and went from need to want. And when nature no longer provided what we wanted, we in our arrogance said we could do better. Therefore, we added to it, we modified it, and even politicized it. That which was natural became unnatural. And the consequences? One doesn’t have to look far. The planet suffers just like our bodies suffer.

There was a time when we worshipped the sun. Now, we eschew it for artificial light.

A time when the cures for our illnesses was found in plants instead of the pharmaceuticals we use today.

A time when God was at the forefront rather than science.

How Much is Enough?

Our appetites extend beyond food. When it comes to money, are we content with what is enough or do we want more? The same with our houses, cars, and gadgets. Seneca answered the question to what the proper limits to one’s wealth by stating, “First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.”

The Builder of the universe, who laid down for us the laws of life, provided that we should exist in well-being, but not in luxury.

Seneca, Letter 119: On Nature as Our Best Provider

Is our planet and our bodies beyond saving? No. Not if we start correcting our course. Saving the planet will be a collective effort most likely not seen in for generations. But for our bodies, we can begin today. We can make better choices. We can establish the proper limits going back to what we need and limiting what we want.


Feature photo by Dana Luig on Unsplash

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