In this short essay, Montaigne shows us that there can be no profit without a loss, just as for something to live, something else must die
|For whatever from its own confines passes changed, this is at once the death of what it was before|
A man selling the necessities for funerals was condemned by Demades the Athenian, for demanding unreasonable profits, and for making these profits by benefiting from the deaths of other people.
This is an ill-grounded judgment, for no profit can be made except at the expense of another. A farmer thrives because of the dearness of grain, an architect by the ruin of buildings, lawyers and judges by the fights and arguments of men, and even priests derive their high standing from our death and vices. A doctor takes no pleasure in the health even of their friends, jokes the ancient Greek writer Seneca, nor the soldier from times of peace, and so on.
And, what is worse, if we dive into our own hearts we will find that every private wish and secret hope depends upon the expense of another.
Nature does not behave unusually in making this so; doctors have found that the birth, nourishment, and increase of one thing is the dissolution and corruption of another. Lucretius said,
‘For whatever from its own confines passes changed, this is at once the death of what it was before.’