Freed from Need

by Peter Saint-Andre


A few months ago, two different people reached out to me about editing their respective books. The first person was someone I had worked with for several years, whom I liked and respected, who had a complete manuscript that although in need of editing was in decent shape, and who was respectful of my time and fairly flexible about schedule. The second person was someone who contacted me out of the blue, who hadn't put in the effort to make his manuscript as good as he was able to on his own, who wanted a quick turnaround, and who was kind of passive-aggressive about working together; he seemed to think that offering to pay me would make up for these failings, and indeed he was almost offended when I told him that I don't charge to edit people's books.

What the second person didn't understand is that I don't have to take on projects like this: I do the work because I enjoy it, because I like the person I'll collaborate with, and because I see value in the book. If you offer to pay me as compensation for putting up with the guano you want to introduce into my life, I have a simple answer: I don't need it!

Interestingly, the ancient Greek conception of freedom (ἐλευθερία) centered not on freedom from government or from domination by others, but freedom from toil, strife, warfighting, and in general from the yoke of all-encompassing necessity. The ultimate freedom was to be freed from need and thus to be freed up for serious yet leisurely activities that celebrate life and are beautifully right, such as love and friendship, games and festivals, music, dramatic performances, artistic appreciation, intelligent conversation, scientific inquiry, and philosophical speculation. A worthy and delightful ideal, if you ask me.

(Cross-posted at

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