Side Note: Of Money and Happiness

Posted: November 25, 2016 in Side Notes, Uncategorized




Money does not buy happiness.

We’ve heard it before, and it is a compelling sentiment. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to assume that the basic needs of sustenance, shelter, security and comfort are a given. These cost money. Without food, protection from the elements, security from harm, and a modest degree of comfort, even a basic level of happiness is not possible. We live in a world where these things come at a cost, in monetary terms. That said, assuming the basics of human existence are covered, having more money does not equate to greater happiness. In this, the work of building enormous wealth, vs. the return on that investment in happiness, is highly subjective, and variable. The work of building wealth, and the burden of maintaining that, does not carry with it a guarantee of ultimate happiness, or satisfaction. Some find that a simpler, modest existence provides all they need to feel happiness. Setting aside the extremes of monks living in seclusion and abject poverty (with their basic needs satisfied by a monastery of course), each of us find our happiness within means we are willing to work for.

So, the real sentiment is that, with our basic needs satisfied, it is our individual journey to find happiness. Simply accumulating more money does not guarantee happiness, and may, in many instances, spoil the show for many. Many find happiness with very modest means, while others find their own happiness surrounded by luxury that only extreme wealth can deliver. However

A more accurate proclamation might be:

Wealth does not buy happiness. 

That all said, in this Holiday season it is important to consider that there are many who are not afforded the luxury of pursuing their happiness. The homeless and those living in abject poverty inside our grand capitalist free market democracy, do not have the basics of sustenance, shelter, security and comfort on which to found the frivolous pursuit of happiness. This is particularly unfortunate for children caught in the throws of economics they have no control over.

I suggest that true happiness cannot be found without recognizing that the pursuit of happiness is a luxury beyond the reach of a growing population that cannot be simply ignored as inconvenient. To this end, true happiness must include some portion of charity and empathy for those struggling to secure their basic needs, so they might find their own happiness.

To this end, the holiday season is a good point to re-assess and consider where our pursuit of happiness can be expanded to include actions that help others find their own way to happiness. This might include participating in food drives, or donations to Good Will, or Toys for Tots, participating in a Habitat for Humanities project, or any number of available organizations and activities from minimal involvement to outright dedication.

To this end, a famous miss-quote, attributed to, but never actually uttered by Gandhi, is perhaps the most important thought of the day:

The greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest member  

For those of us with the means to seek our true happiness, including effort to assist our weakest members find theirs is far more relevant than any trivial relationship one might make between wealth and happiness.

Cheers and Happy Holidays to all!

  1. Don Brandt says:

    Happy holidays Kevin. Well said.

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