Trying to make sense of life and to learn living it happily.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Exploring Happiness Pre-requisites: Money

art by ~Saphaer69
Money, undoubtedly, is a very powerful and desirable object in our society and for each of us individually. It shapes our lives. We choose careers because of it. We spend most of our precious waking hours working instead of doing something else that we may enjoy better because of it. Money grants unbelievable opportunities, inspires hideous crimes and spurs on amazing scientific and artistic achievements. Money is a huge engine of our world, whether we like it or not. And despite the saying about money not being able to buy happiness, the majority of us tie money closely to our levels of happiness.

Our consumerist culture nurtures the idea that money can buy us some happiness. Marketing campaigns ingrain the heavy suggestion that buying certain things makes us happy - a car, a shampoo, a bag of chips. They claim we "open happiness" when we open a bottle of not-too-healthy soft beverage, or that we will be touched by happiness when showering with certain body wash. Even if we do not take the ads seriously, using the commercial break time for other things, like grabbing a can of the said soft beverage, the notion is still there in our heads and even more so in the heads of our children. It distorts and devalues the true meaning of happiness. It also makes us confuse pleasures with real happiness (for more on that see post "Happiness vs. Pleasure" at http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=7848938430226411031#editor/target=post;postID=8226060586603017057).

art by ~pandacub143

In defense of money, I believe that in some ways, it can buy happiness. More precisely, it can procure conditions that lead to happiness: it can give us a sense of financial security, of indulgence, of ability to help others, ability to be free to do what we choose and not toil at a job we do not enjoy. Money grants us opportunities to learn what makes us happy and the ability to do it.

But we do not need money to make ourselves happy, as long as we are content with what we have, even if we dream about something else, perhaps. We all heard recollections of our parents, older acquaintances, or historical figures about how they had two cents in their pockets and felt very much happy and alive.

So money can help us with our levels of happiness, but it does not guarantee it. For example, Prince Charming was quite wealthy but oh-so-unhappy in the beginning of the Cinderella fairytale. He was extremely unhappy, because he felt that nothing ever went his way, and on top of it, his parents were organizing a huge ball for all the maids of the kingdom, and they were forcing him into choosing a bride! That is just one fairy tale example about how lots of money does not guarantee happiness to its master. I am sure you can think of dozens more from the real life.

Moreover, similarly to having the ability to make us happy, or not affect our level of happiness, money has the ability to make us unhappy. Just think of  investing, managing money, fear of a mere potential of losing some because of our own mistakes or the market, the long hours and sleepless nights one may put into planning and worrying about competition, preserving capital, growing capital, etc. What a headache!

Money also has the ability to make us forget or disregard moderation and to grant us excessive permissiveness. And once there is no moderation, the many available bad habits turn into addictions and into broken lives. If not for lots of money, a lot of good people would not get into a lot of trouble.

art by ~Mephiles99

So the same powerful object - money - may make us happy, unhappy, or not relate to our happiness levels. That is because of the essence of happiness itself. Real happiness comes from inside, from our mind set, from whether we choose to feel happy without money, with money, because of having enough money, or despite of having it.

1 comment:

  1. Kim Stephenson, the author of "Taming the Pound" writes about the ways of making money your servant, not your master. Check out his book at http://www.tamingthepound.com/