Quis dives? Qui nil cupiet. Quis pauper? Avarus.

Who is rich? The individual who will desire nothing. Who is poor? The one who
is greedy.
(Pseudo-Ausonius, 1.1.3)

(pron = kwis dee-ways? Kwee nihl koo-pee-eht. Kwis pow-pehr? Ah-wah-roos)

Comment: This is an ancient and, it seems to me, fairly universal distinction.
It is designed to catch the reader off guard. Ask a group of Americans the
first question: who is rich? The list would include movie stars, corporate
excecutives, professional athletes, career politicians, distinctive families,
etc. Then falls the blade: the rich man or woman is the one who is free of
desire for things, and who will continue to be. The proverb uses the future
tense. It implies this ongoing condition of richness.

Who is poor? Perhaps right now in time we think of those who have lost
everything to hurricane Katrina. The blade falls again: the poor individual is
the one who, regardless of what he/she has, still wants more (which, by the way,
is an American cliché in itself: how much do you need to be rich—more!).

I listened to an interview on NPR yesterday with the daughter of a now deceased
American water-colorist who lives on the Mississippi coast where her father’s
prolific water-color paintings and ink-drawings are (or were) kept. She
descirbes in some detail the damage done to her father’s paintings, many of
which were saved or can be salvaged without much damage after the hurricane.
She describes all that they had done to protect them; all that they are doing
to save them from the water. And then in one telling moment she admits that
really, having lost everything of the museum and personal belongings, she feels
suddenly “free of the past and its constraints”. For a moment, she spoke of a
new lease on life to be herself. All the things she was bound to, attached to,
anxious about, were gone.

I suspect this is the wealth and poverty that this proverb speaks of. Buddha
taught the same. So did Jesus and Lao Tsu.

Bob Patrick
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day is now available on the web.