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  • Andrew Lewis

The Marketplace at Athens.

There is a story told of Socrates the ancient Greek philosopher wandering through the busy marketplace at Athens looking at the vast array of goods and products on sale. 'Isn't it wonderful ?' he said, 'All these things I can do without.'

Another (later) philosopher, Immanuel Kant, said 'We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.'

A little later again, the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote 'The object of desire merely seems to be that; possession takes away its fascination.'

A long time before these philosophers there was a saying believed to be of Buddhist origin, 'If you have a camel, your troubles are as big as a camel.'

And who was it who said 'Be careful what you wish for' ?

None of this means that possessions are bad, that wanting and having things is a sin. It is not a virtuous command that we become wandering ascetics. The historical Buddha tried a life of severe asceticism in search of enlightenment and became ill! He turned away from the practice, seeing it as unnecessary.

What we find in all of these quotes are simple observations of a certain truth. Each is a gentle reminder to stay aware or 'mindful'. The mad rush to get more things, the belief that the more toys we have the happier we will get, just doesn't seem to work in reality. We just need to be aware of this and not get carried away. We can be aware when the dopamine rush gets going! We can stop things spiralling out of control. This is what keeps us from chasing false promises. It is what leads to peace, contentment and less clutter in our lives.

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