You Can’t Lose What You Don’t Use — tips from a 17th century fable

I try to be a careful person. Not to spend beyond my means. To take care of what I have.

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when we reflect on what we’re grateful for. Of course, the gratitude list is topped by not-things, such as family, friends and health, but the list also includes the stuff of our lives. This fable made me realize that part of that expression of gratitude must include indulging in the very things we’re grateful for, not hoarding them for next time.

It is use that makes possession. There are people whose great passion is simply to accumulate, to add sum to sum. I ask you, what advantage do they have that another does not? Diogenes over there is just as rich as them, and the miser over here who, like Diogenes, lives in rags.

The man with the hidden treasure that Aesop offers us in his fable is an example of my point.

The unhappy wretch was waiting for a second life to enjoy his riches. He didn’t possess gold; gold possessed him. He buried his money in the ground and with it his heart, which had nothing else to do but ruminate on the money’s existence day and night; until he had elevated his stash to sacred status. Going or coming, drinking or eating, he would not be caught short; he was always thinking about the place where his treasure lay buried.

He made so many trips to check the spot that a gravedigger saw him and, guessing the existence of the money, took it without saying anything. One fine day, our miser found nothing but the empty nest. Here is my man in tears: he whimpers, he sighs, he torments himself, he rips himself to shreds.

A passerby asks him what the crisis is about.

It’s my treasure that’s been stolen.

Your treasure? Where was it stolen? Are we in a time of war? Why else would you have brought your lifesavings so far from your house? Wouldn’t you have done better to keep it at home in a cabinet than to change its location? That way you could have easily dipped into it at any time.

At any time? My god! Is this what the world has come to? Money comes like it goes? I never touched it.

So tell me, please, the other said, why beat yourself up so much? Since you were never going to touch the money, put a stone in its place and that will serve you just as well.

I try not to wear my beloved velvet boots on rainy days, or when I know I’ll be walking somewhere very dusty. I have a pair of leather pants that are guaranteed to make me feel great when I put them on, but I worry that I’ll stretch them out. I’m constantly trying to find the line between preserving things I love, and taking pleasure in their use.

Do you do that too? Wait for a special occasion, and then when it comes, maybe wait for the next one instead?

If Thanksgiving is for anything, it should be for “using”. Get out that dusty bottle of vintage wine. Take the plastic off the couches. Who cares if the silver is polished, set it on the table. Wear that kick-ass dress, so what if it’s too much. To use and enjoy is one of the best ways to give thanks. To share what you have with others, even richer. What else is giving thanks for, if not to revel in gratitude? To use life to its fullest. Don’t wait for a second life to enjoy what gives you joy.

What are these Fableogs?


Originally published at on November 25, 2017.

Tagged in Gratitude, Thanksgiving, Use It Or Lose It, Fable

By Mina Samuels on November 25, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on March 17, 2018.



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