Practicing Poverty

What is practicing poverty?

Practicing poverty is one way to test minimalism or even an ascetic lifestyle.

This is especially important in a world where we're taught that the only way for the economy to prosper is for everyone to keep buying useless stuff that we don't need.

One way I practice poverty is by building out a backpack which can keep me alive for about 3 days no matter what emergency happens.

I think everyone needs an everyday carry bag, a small bug out bag, and a big bug out bag to use if you're never coming home .

Seneca was one of the most famous Stoic philosophers. He also advocated that instead of merely thinking about what it would be like to lose something, we should periodically “practice poverty”.

“The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.” — Seneca

With lockdowns, social distancing, wearing masks, and hand washing, who doesn't believe that the government is not going to do this again?

One thing each of us can do as individuals is to do a little bit of prepping and practice poverty. 

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?'” – Seneca

Born over 2,000 years ago in Spain, the son of Seneca the Elder, Lucius Annaeus Seneca had a varied reputation.

Seneca would recommend that during good times that people periodically practice poverty I wearing coarse clothes, eating basic foods, and staying outdoors. I guess he was practicing being homeless and living under a bridge before it was rampant.

The strong interest in Seneca is today not surprising. Seneca not only wrote on philosophy but used it the way it’s meant to be used, to handle and navigate the upsides and downsides of fortune. 

Of course, Seneca was in extremely complicated individual.

On one hand, there is incongruity between his principles and his life. For example, take his association with Nero. In 41 A.D. when Claudius became the emperor, he exiled Seneca to the island of Corsica for allegedly having an affair with Caligula’s sister. 

He stayed in exile for over eight years, until Agrippina, the mother of the future emperor Nero, secured his release to become Nero’s tutor. Nero would go on to become one of the most infamous and tyrannical emperors in the Roman history, a fact that caused many people to charge Seneca with hypocrisy.

Seneca lived through many ups and downs. Under Nero, he became fabulously wealthy and one of the richest man in the world.

In 65 ad, Nero believed Seneca was part of a plot to have him removed as emperor, so he demanded that Seneca commit suicide.

Satisfaction kills desire. We long for what we don’t possess, and once we attain it, we’re satisfied for a only a brief time. But desire will always come back bigger and stronger.

And this vicious cycle fuels our modern society.

I see this most often when people spend hundreds or even over $1,000 on a smartphone. Unless you are using that phone for your entire online business, there's nothing you can do that my $30 phone can't do. 

Most people cannot even comprehend going a day without their phones or Facebook.

You don’t have to get rid of all your belongings to become a minimalist. Ascetics are a different animal though. 

The main goal of minimalism is to learn to appreciate the things you already own, to get rid of the stuff you don’t need, and stop bringing more objects into your life.

Poverty is a mindset, as well as a condition.

Poverty as a mindset is a factor of believing there is never enough, and that you have to desperately protect everything that you own or possess.

The poverty that Seneca is referring to in his work is poverty as a condition. 

The fact of being willing to give up all the “riches” that you may have is an impetus for understanding what most people in the world go through.  It also allows you to regularly refresh your perspective on material things.

I've been thinking about practicing poverty a lot lately, but how could I not have been thinking about it?

When people are forced to quarantine at home, poverty can become a way of life.  The trouble is that forced poverty is not the same as practicing it on your own.   It just makes you more resilient when it does come your way either through natural causes or by government action.

Just as people abstain from food by fasting, or even a technology fast, choosing a regular interval to fast from extraneous things helps us become resourceful in the way that we approach life.

Practicing poverty is now more important than ever.

Well I believe that we will get another stimulus check before the November election, it will only help relieve some of the pain until the current president is re-elected or the new president comes in.

Make no mistake. Even if the economy comes back strong, which it won't, practicing poverty is a way to reduce stress in your life and to determine exactly what is important.

Everyone needs to be able to practice poverty, and to have your supplies in place, before another lockdown is forced upon us. I don't know how anyone can believe that once politicians get used to wielding unconstitutional power, that they will voluntarily give that up.

To understand practicing poverty, I need to go back to Seneca.

Many people have practiced poverty over the Millennia. Seneca is just one of the most famous. As part of my new business which starts Monday, I need to be an expert in a few things.

The first is becoming a master at Solo Build It!.

I have to make sure that burned down the freaking mission is my base page for stoicism.

In effect, it no longer pays to work beyond the bare minimum needed to survive as all the value generated by labor above this minimum is either skimmed by the Bezos, Buffetts, Gates, Zuckerbergs et al. or it’s paid in higher taxes to the government.


This is part of the argument for Practicing Poverty.