Sunday, February 15, 2009

Thought for the Week 2/15/09


This week's thought comes via Courtenay Hameister, who interviewed Gert on Live Wire!. A passage from Courtenay's contribution to the new essay collection What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories
(edited by my friends Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman) was read last week on the Today Show.

As for Gert's thought, it's the truth, but not the whole truth. I don't agree that "money can't buy you happiness." It can. Trust me. I've lived on a little and I've lived on a lot. A lot is better. Money bought me a college education and trips abroad and my boyfriend's buttery leather coat, all of which made me very happy. Money also bought me a cozy house and internet access and the spiffy new television Floyd got me for my birthday.

(Clarification--the afore-mentioned boyfriend and Floyd are the same person. Yes, I know we've been together 22 years, were married in Canada and domestically partnered in Oregon, but boyfriend has a tingly junior high feel that we like.)

Personally, I think the notion of money not being able to buy you happiness was thought up by poor people trying to make themselves feel better. No offense to poor people. As someone who's had very little work this past year, I can still relate. As Tevye says, "There's no shame in being poor, but it's no great honor either."

That's why it's not the whole truth. Three years ago, I went to Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in Africa, which is pretty damn poor. We're talking people without plumbing sleeping in huts. And yet I saw more smiles per capita than I have anywhere ever. Studies on happiness show this is because our personal satisfaction relates to how we feel we're doing in relation to those around us. Our western mass media constantly show us how poorly we compare. A Buddhist would interpret the same idea by saying that our unhappiness is caused by our desires.

So a more accurate statement would be that "Money doesn't necessarily buy you happiness, but suck on the good times, baby."


Fantastic Forrest said...

I agree with all you've said here.

A political scientist would label the dissatisfaction many in our society feel as "relative deprivation." Thanks, advertising industry, for making us feel that we're missing out on our fair share! Most of us are actually pretty darned well off and we should be happy with what we have.

I like what FDR had to say about this: "Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort."

therese said...

Good post, Marc! I really like you and Floyd understand that energetic delight in the "boyfriend" terminology. "Life partners" gives me a stodgy feel and sort of weighs down the potential fun of the moment.

Money gives opportunities. What we do with that, is our choice. We can use the money to produce comfort and generate a happy feeling for ourselves and share it with our friends with great parties. Or we can hoard it.

Abundance needs to be shared and paid forward. Continue to do so and all your days may be full of wonder.

Rick said...

Very good point. And the tv's wonderful!

Kate said...

I have always thought that American's have a seriously messed up view of money. Impoverished people want more money because they are impoverished. Working class people want more money because they don't want to appear impoverished. Middle class people want more money because they don't want to seem working class. And the cycle continues until you get people making seven figure salaries who are unable to live within their means.

I have been fortunate in my life and have never been destitute. I do actively try to always live below my means. I agree that some of the things money can buy can lead to happiness. But always wanting to show off to your neighbors and prove your worth through your credit card bill can't. Being content with what you have and enjoying treasures of family and friends is a much more successful recipe for happiness.

Amy Jo said...

Much like a wise astrological reading, your entry was completely apropos to my weekend. I have silly problem...I am afraid of money. I always think having it sounds great; but when it actually comes my way I just panic. My partner has done some hefty shopping in the last week (a thoughtful gift for me included)and although she can afford it (and I am grateful) I am set into a complete tailspin over it. I like to think that growing up uber poor instilled in me a drive to do-more-with-less. But truthfully, I think witnessing my mother's monthly nervous breakdown at the kitchen table with a stack of bills clutched in her fist did more harm than good.

the bud cracked said...

In the end it's the experiences that produce happiness.
And, money sometimes allows you to watch that movie on your tv with your boyfriend.
I agree in the end boyfriend is still the sweetest option.

Noah, Post-Diluvian said...

My nick name is "good times".


David said...

I'd be inclined to believe that the expression was coined by rich people who "cast off" their wealth to make some kind of statement.

Brian said...

Great television. Wish I had one.