Editor’s Note: Yesterday, Bill introduced readers to the Baby Boomer Survival Guide. Today, in Part 2, Bill considers an essential question: What is money really good for?
Money is our beat at the Diary.
But money means nothing without philosophy. Beyond what we need to survive, money has no importance.
Is it good? Is it bad? It depends.
We need a simple philosophy to make sense of it – to guide us past the Gucci bags… past cable TV… and past the million-euro apartments of the 16th arrondissement in Paris.
Not that there’s anything wrong with them. But they are expensive.
And if you don’t have money, you need to be able to pass up luxury, gluttony, and self-indulgence with your nose in the air… not with your shoulders bent in defeat and self-disgust.
And for that, you need philosophy. Or at least aesthetics.
All people – unless they are saints or mental defectives – want to feel good about themselves. That is their primary aim in life and the only reason they are interested in money (save the minimal amount for survival).
Since we are a competitive species, we feel good about ourselves in direct measure to how superior we feel to those around us.
If we are trim, it does no good unless those around us are not. If we are smart, we get no advantage from it unless others are dumb. And if we are rich, it is only meaningful to the extent that others are less rich.
But so clever is our race that we are able to find superiority almost everywhere.
If we are fat, we redefine the corpulent spectrum so that we are “pleasingly plump,” while others are “unhealthy” and “too thin.”
If we are dumb, we focus on our “common sense” as opposed to the uncommon nonsense of the “pointy-headed intellectuals” (to borrow a phrase from George Wallace).
And what if we have no money?
Then spending money is vulgar, shallow, and pointless!
Pity the Rich
One person feels superior because of what he owns. Another for what he does not. Still another for what he knows. And another for what he knows not.
And one feels superior because of who he is, while another measures his stature by who he is not.
But the one who feels superior to them all is the one who owns nothing, knows nothing, and is a complete nobody. He is free from the vanities that clutter others’ lives!
In 10th-century Europe, having little became fashionable. People gave up their possessions in search of a life of contemplation.
They wanted to get away from the distractions and temptations of everyday life so they could live in a purer way… in simplicity and godliness… and feel superior.
And now, we will take up the challenge. Our goal will be to live better. We will take it as a point of pride to do so without spending money.
We will have less, but we will treasure our frugality as a man might value a collection of old cars or well-developed biceps.
Then – as our days decline, our appetite wanes, and our energy subsides with the tide of life – our treasure of nothing increases, for we will need less and less.
A bed. A book. A candle. What more could we want?
Yes, we are talking about a program of radical deprivation and happy pennilessness. Our goal would be to feel superior to rich people… without having any money.
But there’s a twist. We will wear our newfound love of poverty as a badge of honor… and use it to get rich!
Already, we pity the rich. In our empty coffer, we have the greatest treasure of all – the hope of happiness.
Yes, Dear Reader: Blessed be the poor. For they enjoy the gift of ignorance.
They still believe that they could be happy… if only they had more money!
This, of course, is an illusion that only the poor can afford. Rich people know better. They have too much money. They know it cannot buy them happiness. That’s why the suicide rate in Aspen is three times the national average.
But how lucky are the poor? They still have hope! They will have to win the lottery before they will want to blow their brains out. And the odds are against them.