“To own nothing is to be truly wealthy.” -misread profundity
One morning during one of the legs of my morning aerobic workout of getting to work in NYC I had finished the brisk walk to the subway station, walked down the steps and was headed to the turnstile to get on the subway. I looked over at the booth where employees sat, though most of their work of selling fares was now handled by vending machines. They had white boards they used to post info on delays, and it was always a good idea to look there, rather than get stuck underground in the typically dank, often un-air conditioned, urine soaked world of the subterranean NY mass transit.
There were no updates, so the MTA employee had written a Romania proverb, “To owe nothing is to be truly wealthy.” Except I misread it and thought about it off and on until I got back to that station on my way back home. What I had read was the slightly less obvious and more enigmatic “To own nothing is to be truly wealthy.”
If you’re reading this and you have massive debt it’s beyond obvious that owing nothing would make you wealthy. You’d have thousands of extra dollars a month. You don’t need a doctorate in finance to be able to do the math.
But what if the more you own, the more it owns you? Does earning enough to maintain your houses and cars and possessions make you do work that crushes your soul and makes you feel trapped?
I’m not in a position to contemplate the merits of a vow of poverty – I have a family to support and debts that need to be paid. But I thankfully also enjoy the work I do, and I love to work. But I’ve seen too many people made prisoner by their own good fortune. Perhaps, to own nothing is to be truly wealthy.