09 April 20XX + 1
My Dear Lucilius:
I seem to be writing you a great more frequently now – again, I say “writing” as if these missives will somehow make their way to you at some point, which of course is completely unknown and unknowable at this point. Still, it does keep my mind active and gives me one more outlet for conversation as I fear I may be monopolize young Xerxes’ time when he stops by. Old men and their penchant for dragging the young into conversations, it seems.
While he was here, Xerxes asked if by chance I had any analgesics that I could part with.
I had to tell him to give a minute to look – I so seldom take medication of any kind if I can help it and especially analgesics, that I had to go looking. Sure enough, I found one unopened bottle, a well known commercial brand that was even within expiration date.
He explained that it was for someone that Stateira’s mother knew that was having a go around with a condition and needed painkillers and that there was (seemingly) little that could be found. What, he asked, would I be willing to trade for it?
I looked at the bottle in my hand. The fact (as I now realized) that I did not have more was a little surprising to me as I try to keep a supply of such things on hand, but not that surprising – as mentioned, I tend to put off the unnecessary medications whenever I can (bearing in mind the mantra that was beaten into me when I started in my industry long ago, “All medications have side effects”). I suppose it would have value – almost anything that is of the old world and is within an expiration date will, of course – but it is not like I have been wanting for anything right now.
I told him to just take it.
He protested of course, tried to convince me that there must be something I would want in return. I told him there was nothing I could think of and besides, at the rate I used such things they were likely to go out of date long before I finished them.
He thanked me profusely of course, to which I muttered something about “Paying it somewhere” or some such thing that was a saying 30 years ago that was put in place instead of simply saying “you are welcome” to such a response.
Later that day a note, bag of cookies, and lettuce leaves mysteriously showed up on my doorstep after a quick rapping and the sound of an ATV driving away. The note was from Stateira and her mother, who was as profuse in their thanks as Xerxes had been. The cookies were for myself, and the lettuce was for the rabbits.
The rabbits are always happy for such kind generosity. And cookies have never, ever, not been a fine way to convey gratitude.
It strikes me as remarkable, Lucilius how we have had to find ways to disguise doing a deed of merit which should be done for no other reason than it is a deed of merit by making them sound like we are noble. Even in the midst of such straightened circumstances as we find ourselves – I here, you there – we should never reach the point where generosity is beyond us or must be more about us than about the good the action is doing.
When everything becomes a transaction, we all become poorer.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca