When I write the word "wealth" on my screen and when you read that word a lot of stagnant definitions pop up in our collective mind. "Wealth," in the traditional sense, is synonymous with money and possessions and privilege, yes? "Wealth" is dogmatized by a capitalist religious sense to mean the acquisition of stuff.
And, for the most part, that definition seems to stick.
A professional baseball player has a lot of money and cars and stuff. He is thus considered "wealthy." So is the CEO of the Fortune 500 company, the heart surgeon, the venture capitalist, and the movie star. For the most part, we all try to find ways to acquire that kind of wealth - through schemes and gambling and, in many cases, the belief that hard work done consistently, will bring wealth to us.
Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.
Henry David Thoreau
The strange cascade of context, however, provides some murkiness to the definition of "wealth." I am, in the metric using material possessions and cold hard cash, poor in comparison to the professional baseball player but wealthy in comparison to the out of work baggage handler. So am I wealthy or not?
According to Henry David, wealth is my ability to fully experience life. Is my inability to fly my own helicopter to Mexico City for a taco an impediment to that goal or not?
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.
Oh, gee thanks, Epidermus. That isn't terribly helpful here, is it?
I mean, not having a lot of wants is fine and probably desirable but have you seen what modern people are up against? Trillions of dollars are spent selling us shit. TRILLIONS. Unless you've decided to live in a cave, brother, you are being marketed to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The whole point is to make you WANT things.
We WANT companionship but nothing to tie us down. We WANT clothes that look good and are hopefully comfortable and definitely fashionable. We WANT to be fit and thin. We WANT the latest device and the internet juice to keep it running. We WANT parking spaces. We WANT sex. We WANT jobs that fulfill us without becoming a chain to a cubicle desk. We WANT money and fame and recognition. We WANT to eat in fine dining establishments without feeling shitty that others can't possibly afford to eat in the same places but we're kind of glad they can't because then we'd never get a table. We WANT freedom. We WANT security. We WANT the police to protect us instead of profile us. We WANT the government to assist us when we need it to but not pay for it when others are in need.
We WANT greatness.
The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.
Yeah? Integrity? Significance through positively affecting your fellow humans?
OK. That's not that hard. I mean, having some sense of integrity and doing one's best to positively affect the world around you is easier than trying to get more points on the spreadsheet. And probably more human, too.
Maybe try that wanting less and trying to fully experience life, as well.