the taxes of life: a different perspective

the taxes of life: a different perspective
Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash
“Nothing will ever befall me that I will receive with gloom or a bad disposition. I will pay my taxes gladly. Now, all the things which cause complaint or dread are like the taxes of life—things from which, my dear Lucilius, you should never hope for exemption or seek escape.”
— Seneca, Moral Letters, 96.2

Today is April 15th or the “Tax Day”, the deadline for filing tax returns in the US. The tax season, up until the very last day, is surely a period of mixed reactions and multiple clashes fueled by different viewpoints, thus an unending stream of opinions – some positive, but mostly negative.

Here’s the thing: The grumbling about taxes is a timeless human tradition.  From the very dawn of civilization, people have bemoaned the portion of their earnings claimed by the government.  But to what avail?  Taxes, much like death, remain a constant.  As Benjamin Franklin famously observed, "In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."  So, with escape impossible, why waste energy fuming and fretting? 

Taxes, in their literal form, may be inevitable, but let's not get bogged down in frustration and resentment.  These negative emotions only add an unnecessary burden – the tax of negativity on top of the financial one.  The truth is, taxes are just one facet of a larger principle: everything in life carries a cost. Income tax is simply the financial representation of this truth.

Consider the broader picture.  Waiting around and going through multiple security checks is a tax on fulfilling our travel dreams. Rumors and gossip are the price of fame, however fleeting.  Even the strongest relationships have their occasional disagreements – a tax on intimacy.  Material possessions come with the risk of theft – a tax on abundance.  Success itself isn't free; it often carries the "tariff" of stress and challenges.  The list goes on.

Dwelling on these inevitable costs serves no purpose.  Instead, let's cultivate gratitude.  Taxes, both literal and metaphorical, are a sign of something positive:  we have something of value.  A strong society with functioning infrastructure, a life filled with experiences and possessions, even the love and support of others – these are all things worth having, and having them comes with a cost.

Ultimately, the choice is ours.  Do we focus on the obligation, the feeling of "owing" something?  Or do we reframe it as a marker of our good fortune, a sign that we have something worth being taxed on?  The answer is clear.  Let's shift our perspective and appreciate the bounty that necessitates these contributions.