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Should one prepare oneself for hard times, and how?
Reading lately Seneca's letter XVIII, Seneca recommends to Lucilius to set aside now and then a number of days for a humble way of living. Little food, coarse cloths, in another words to experience poverty as a preparation for difficult times, with the aim of self-educating to be content with very little.

His argument for the benefit of this is the following:
“In the midst of peace the soldier carries out manoeuvres, throws up earthworks against non-existent enemy and tires himself out with unnecessary toil in order to be equal to it when it is necessary. If you want a man to keep his head when the crisis comes you must give him some training before it comes.”

As a musician I feel this is an excellent advice. I'd rather work each day on a difficult instrument (but important to note of high quality and not to be confused with bad quality), in a difficult acoustic, so that adapting later to the real life concert situation is done more easily and effectively.

But as to real life, I am of the opinion that it's enough to deal with difficult times when they come and there is no need to duplicate them. However my experience shows me that the better I am prepared the better I react. Or, of my little experience with the game of chess, I gather that the only way of getting out of a bad situation is to have enough preparation and foresight abilities. So going back to my title, should one prepare oneself for hard times and how?
Is simulation, imagination, enough or does one need to prepare by really living it (in a minimized way), which is the stoic way?
Books Discussed
Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)
by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Hi Edna.  Is Seneca serious?  The difficulty of poverty is how narrow and how real its dictate, a hyper-real state of utter, and utterly personal disillusionment.  The last, single, black potato on your plate, your inability to ignore how mean yet how valuable, how crucially you need the despised thing.

If you're a rich person and have the maid dish out that single potato for dinner, tell you that it’s your last, while you yourself know differently, having paid good money for tomorrow’s steaks, how prepared would that leave you for poverty?  No matter how good you play at poverty part of you is the conscious director who can never be prepared when real, inescapable, humiliating poverty shows up for dinner.

I’m not too convinced about the analogy of practicing on difficult musical scores in order to be prepared for the performance, not in the context Seneca speaks of.  Doesn’t he speak of negative capability?  As when you show up on opening night and not a single person shows up to hear you.  Becoming skilled musically would be of no help at all.

Leaving Seneca aside, Edna, as a practical, everyday matter poverty is the foundational state of sanity.  Each layer of abundance must be chosen carefully and adopted with caution.  As an artist you have to know that.  An excessive life stands a good chance of losing track of talent, the artist practicing where there is insufficient poverty, the riches, even subjective ones, crowding out genius.

As for any looming economic disaster, the best preparation would be an activism to insure that the rich suffer as much as any other.
Pardon me, Edna.  Can I add a couple of more thoughts?  I was washing dishes and my blood became hotter than the water.  Can you imagine?  Here's Nero's favorite PRETENDING to be poor!  What an affront to people in inescapable poverty the world over!  Phooey...

And more positively, when you and your family have your last potatos before you it is your privilage to under go the following transformation:  You must change (become divine) by yourself transforming the despised root.  By eating your last food with even joy and reverence it changes into a something divine, a food so divine to be forbidden to any one less rich and capable inwardly..
I think it is good to prepare for poverty in that you should not take wealth for granted.  It can be stripped from you so easily and in so many ways, as so many found out recently, to their continuing despair. 
Spend frugally, generally.  Invest wisely.  Particularly invest in yourself, in skills that can be of use to yourself and your fellow men and women.  Have a plan - how to downsize without discarding assets.  How to protect the assets you have.  Just some of the things that come to mind.  Always have a plan B, so when a crunch comes there are effective measures you can take to protect life, limb and property, notably your own, but also where possible, others'. 
All of which sounds terribly glib and is unlikely to fully protect one in times of attrition.  But even a bad plan is better than no plan at all. 
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Latest Post: January 5, 2011 at 4:34 PM
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