Advice from the son a slave

This week’s card is the 6 of Hearts which just isn’t going to work. The assignment is to live off cash, not plastic. Because I’m travelling this week this would be tricky. I can’t remember the last time I paid for a hotel room in cash ….

And while I could make it work, the point of the assignment is to spend more consciously and no doubt, less. The next few days aren’t the right time to test my ability to do this.

Since I am not allowed to buy books, have “writing meals” or buy any clothes (which I banned during the Simpler Living assignment), except for a few meals later in the week with the friends and family I’ll visit in New York, most of what I’ll spend this week will involve taxis and hotels for work and these get expensed .

So I’m postponing the 6 of Hearts for one week.

But since there are 52 weeks in a year and 52 cards in the Deck of Small Change (and I must do them all), I’ve picked a replacement card to have a Counting Zero’s assignment while on the road. Reminiscent of the Thoreau thought experiment back in January, the card I’ve picked issues a command from a Roman poet. The 3 of Clubs quotes Horace:

“Begin, be bold and venture to be wise.”

In practical terms, the assignment is to make a bold move with my money! I’ve also decided to adopt Horace as The Counting Zeros mascot.

Horace, who lived in the final years of BC, is something of a professional role model for me. His dad was a freed slave who became a middleman in the Roman auctions — earning a percent of whatever deals he set up.

(While the auction as a form of trade lost popularity for over a thousand years, it was very big business back in Roman times … remember the slave market where Proximo purchased Maximus! The Roman auction culminated spectacularly when The Praetorian Guard put The Empire itself up for bid in 193 AD. Though that did’t turn out so well in the end. Still, clearly a bold move!)

But back to Horace’s dad … having managed to stockpile enough money, he set about providing his son with the complete classical Roman and Greek education, travelling with him to Athens to polish things off with a few years of philosophy.

While Horace grew up to become a poet, his father could remain proud that his son was also a man of action. After the assassination of Julias Caesar, Horace joined the army and served under Brutus and, look — he penned all sorts of Nike-esque maxims:

  • Don’t think, just do.
  • Make a good use of the present.
  • If matters go badly now, they will not always be so. (not dissimilar to my mother’s advice ‘this too shall pass’)
  • Whatever advice you give, be short.

But the main reason why Horace is something of a role model is that he was savvy enough to land a day job that was not only profitable but secure. His lifetime appointment to The Roman Treasury was what allowed him not to sponge off his dad in order to fund his lyrical pursuits. And his job? Horace was the “scribe quaestoris” — Rome’s financial record keeper, and therefore a most suitable poet mascot for Counting Zeros.

Till, next week — when reporting live from Manhattan I’ll reply to the Horatian challenge.


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