30 Jan WHAT A MAN HAS (Α.SCHOPENHAUER) | Part B’
All these remarks do not apply to business men for whom money itself is the means to further gain, the tools and implements, so to speak.
Therefore even when the money is earned entirely through their own efforts, they try to preserve and increase it by making the best use thereof. Accordingly, in no class is wealth so thoroughly at home as in the commercial.
From this it might be inferred that. when viewed from a distance. poverty is not so bad as it seems. Yet perhaps the true reason might be that. to the man born in a position of wealth. this appears to be something indispensable. the element of the only possible existence. like air. He therefore guards it as he guards his life and so is usually orderly. tidy. prudent. and thrifty. On the other hand. to the man born in poverty. this seems to be the natural state; but wealth. that is subsequently inherited in some way is regarded as something superfluous. as merely useful to be enjoyed and squandered. For when it has gone, he manages just as well without it as he did previously, and he is rid of an anxiety.
From this peculiar human trait we can also explain why women who were poor girls are very often more pretentious and extravagant than are those who have brought their husbands a rich dowry. For in most cases wealthy girls not only bring a dowry. but also show more keenness and indeed hereditary tendency to preserve it than do poor girls. If, however, anyone wishes to assert the contrary, he will find authority for his view in Ariosto’s first satire.
In any case, however, I would like to advise those marrying poor girls to allow them to inherit not the capital but only an annuity, and to take special care that the children’s fortune does not fall into their hands.
I certainly do not think that I am doing anything unworthy of my pen in here recommending that one should be careful to preserve what has been earned and inherited. For to possess at the outset so much that we can live comfortably, even if only for our own person and without a family, and can live really independently, that is, without working, is a priceless advantage. For it means exemption and immunity from the poverty and trouble attaching to the life of man, and thus emancipation from universal drudgery, that natural lot of earthly mortals.
Only under this favour and patronage of fate is a man born truly free; for only so is he really sui juris, master of his own time and powers, and is able to say every morning ‘The day is mine’. And for the very same reason, the difference between the man with a thousand a year and one with a hundred is infinitely less than that between the former and the man who has nothing.
But inherited wealth attains its highest value when it has come to the man who is endowed with mental powers of a high order and who pursues activities that are hardly compatible with earning money. For then he is doubly endowed by fate and can now live for his genius; but in this way, he will pay a hundredfold his debt to mankind by achieving what no other could do and by producing something that contributes to the good of all and also redounds to their honour. Again, another in such a favourable position will deserve well of humanity through his philanthropic activities. On the other hand, the man with inherited wealth who achieves none of these things, even only partially or tentatively, and who does not even open up the possibility at least of advancing some branch of knowledge by thoroughly studying it, is a mere idler and a contemptible loafer. He will not be happy, for the exemption from want delivers him into the hands of boredom, that other pole of human misery, which torments him so much that he would have been much happier if poverty and privation had given him something to do. But this very boredom will soon lead him into extravagances which rob him of that advantage whereof he was unworthy.
Very many actually find themselves in want simply because they spent money when they had it, merely to procure for themselves momentary relief from the boredom that oppressed them. On the other hand, the man who originally has enough to live on will often have an independent turn of mind; he is accustomed to go about tete levee; he has not learnt all those arts of the beggar. Perhaps he even boasts of a few talents, but he should realize how inadequate these are in face of the mediocre et rampant. In the end, he is quite capable of observing the inferiority of those over him; and if in addition he now receives insults and indignities, he becomes refractory and shy. This is not the way to get on in the world. On the contrary, he may ultimately say with the bold Voltaire: Nous n’ avons que deux jours a vivre: ce n’ est pas la peine de les passer a ramper sous des coquins meprisables.
I have not included wife and family in what a man has, for they have him rather than he has them. Friends could be more readily included in what he has, yet even here the possessor must be to the same extent the possession of the other man.
Parerga & Paralipomena