From The Simple Life, 1903
By Charles Wagner
The destruction of happiness, independence, moral fineness, even of the sentiment of common interests — such is the result of the reign of needs. A multitude of other unfortunate things might be added, of which not the least is the disturbance of the public welfare. When society has too great needs, it is absorbed with the present, sacrifices to it the conquests of the past, immolates to it the future. After us the deluge! To raze the forests in order to get gold; to squander your patrimony in youth, destroying in a day the fruit of long years; to warm your house by burning your furniture; to burden the future with debts for the sake of present pleasure; to live by expedients and sow for the morrow trouble, sickness, ruin, envy, and hate — the enumeration of all the misdeeds of this fatal regime has no end.
On the other hand, if we hold to simple needs we avoid all these evils and replace them by measureless good. That temperance and sobriety are the best guardians of health is an old story. They spare him who observes them many a misery that saddens existence; they insure him health, love of action, mental poise. Whether it be a question of food, dress, or dwelling, simplicity of taste is also a source of independence and safety. The more simply you live, the more secure is your future; you are less at the mercy of surprises and reverses. An illness or a period of idleness does not suffice to dispossess you: a change of position, even considerable, does not put you to confusion. Having simple needs, you find it less painful to accustom yourself to the hazards of fortune. You remain a man, though you lose your office or your income, because the foundation on which your life rests is not your table, your cellar, your horses, your goods and chattels, or your money. In adversity you will not act like a nursling deprived of its bottle and rattle. Stronger, better armed for the struggle, presenting, like those with shaven heads, less advantage to the hands of your enemy, you will also be of more profit to your neighbor. For you will not rouse his jealousy, his base desires or his censure, by your luxury, your prodigality, or the spectacle of a sycophant’s life; and, less absorbed in your own comfort, you will find the means of working for that of others.