At the conclusion of Germania, Tacitus reveals one specific tribe along with some unique characteristics that they lived by.
Known as the Fenni, they lived in extreme simplicity. They have “… wild plants for their food, skins for their clothing, the ground for their beds.” What comfort does one get from sleeping on the ground? Why did they choose such a simple lifestyle?
But Tacitus continues:
“Yet they think it happier so than to groan over field labour, be cumbered with building houses, and be for ever involving their own and their neighbors’ fortunes in alternate hopes and fears… they have nothing even to ask for.”
Taking a step back from the close lens with which we view life today, ask am I really happy? Have I reached a state of peace and felicity? Often, we speed through life- attempting to achieve the largest house, the finest apparel, the most lavish excursion. We are always wishing for something we don’t have that someone else does. A common motto we live by: we can’t be happy if we don’t have the same 50” tv! Then that same person will go and work more and more till their life is consumed by obtaining never-ending wants. Can peace by reached in such circumstances?
Acquiring items is not what made the Fenni happy and peaceful. Their wants were their needs. Order was met. Simple has a correlation with felicity.
Additionally, what would any other tribe or country get by conquering the Fennians? What did they have that anyone would want to invade and steal?
The purpose of these observations is not to convince you to go out and live in a forest, but to evaluate your ability to obtain contentedness. You have a choice to pursue your wants and needs. But maybe it would bring great balance if we regularly distinguished between those two, and observed the happiness experienced from not wishing (or coveting) for something we didn’t have.
~ Ashley Volk