Monday, May 22, 2017

True Happiness (part 5): Money/Wealth

If happiness is the acquisition of the highest good, how do we find happiness in that which is not the highest good? How have we become "far too easily pleased"? As we think about this, let's discover if money can bring happiness.

Here's a song:  

"Money, get away
Get a good job with good pay and you're okay
Money, it's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I'll buy me a football team . . . 
Money, it's a crime
Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for a rise
It's no surprise that they're giving none away."

Does money buy happiness? Pink Floyd gives us both sides of the proverbial coin in their 1973 hit. Since nothing's new under the sun, Pink Floyd echoes the truth that Lady Philosophy was trying to impart to Beothius nearly 1500 years previous: if you accumulate all you can get and are still lacking good things, then money is a liar, not able to deliver on its promises. Money cannot bring happiness.

Have you ever stopped to think how money is powerless to protect itself? Leave some laying around and watch what it does. Nothing. Until someone helps it disappear. Money is powerless! Sure, money can fill a need, but it creates more need--such as security. In order to keep your piece of mind, one must spend money to hire protection to keep it. Wealth does not eliminate need--it creates need.

Maybe we've got it backwards: less is more. The less one has, the more freedom from want he has. Things that make you go, "hmmmmmmm". 

Pink Floyd teaches the ancient lesson that money is a crime--share all you want, just don't expect to get any of mine. What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine. Try asking for a raise at work and see what happens. You may get one, but you'll have to agree: they don't just give that stuff away. And even if you get that raise, it will never be enough. 

"If wealth cannot remove want, and even creates it's own wants, what reason is there that you should think it affords satisfaction to a man?" (Book 3, Prose 3, Boethius, "Consolation of Philosophy")


I know a guy who began remodeling his home two years ago. His house was only four years old. I'm sure he's done a fine job on the inside of the house, but he's never finished working on it. He recently received two eighteen wheeler loads of bricks to build an outdoor living-room in this back yard. This guy also owns eight cars (that we can see)--although recently, I've only counted six. Always mystified when all the cars are gone but only two people live there . . . anyway he's always washing his cars. His front yard is beautiful, by the way. Mows it twice a week. Stayed green all winter, too.

I think the strangest thing he's done is to build a fence. Don't get me wrong, there was already a fence there--he just had to have his own fence right up against the existing fence--only a couple inches higher so he doesn't have to see the first fence. He likes to look at his own apparently.

I'm sad for him because he's got to pay for all those cars: insure them, secure them, protect them, wash them (by hand), polish them, gas them, oil them . . .

And the house and yard? Like everyone else: insure it, secure it, mow it, edge it, weed it, water it, paint it, exterminate it, heat it, cool it, provide utilities, sewer . . .

And eat.

I'm not sure what he does for a living, but he's not happy. He's often on the phone outside yelling at somebody. Don't know why he can't do that inside. He's also often heard yelling at hired help for whatever reason--and we watch them shake their heads at him when his back is turned. We've never seen him smile. He rarely waves or says "hello."

What makes matters worse is that I know another guy who tries to copy everything the first guy does. But he's rarely ever seen because he's always working. I don't think he's happy either.

Know who's happy? The guy who lives by the rule: "keep what you must, share what you can."
He's the guy who eats to live. Know what I mean? 

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