The other day a dear friend of mine posted on Facebook “thinking that a life of moderation is the way to go this year”. Several “likes” later I commented “Works for me”. Many would go on and agree with she and I. I can’t speak for their reasoning but as for myself, I live the simple life because I was forced into it. A year ago, I had a lot of stuff. Now I don’t. Apart from not having everyone together anymore, I am happier in many ways. I am free of the worry brought on by increasing costs of living and shrinking incomes. I don’t need to work more for a bigger house to find room for more stuff. More stuff that didn’t make me happy, didn’t fulfill me or give me any sense of lingering purpose, other than to live long enough to pay for it all. I never would have voluntarily given up my stuff because my family needed it. But now, I am free of it and looking for the real meaning in, not of, life.
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey turned a few heads when he made this comment. Some thought that he was mocking people with his wealth, that he was another rich celeb that wanted us to feel bad for the problems of the rich and famous. He wasn’t. He was simply pointing out that every thing in the world is not enough if you are not at peace with yourself. I am related to a walking and talking example of this.
When I first began dating my wife in the early 90’s I learned that her Aunt was married to a local Real Estate Mogul, nicknamed “The Condo King”. At the time we began dating the “King” had recently fallen from Grace. He was jailed for multiple counts of fraud, influence peddling etc., and sent to prison. Not before, nice guy that he was, he hid all of his money in his girlfriend’s name leaving his wife and 2 kids with little. The oldest son would go to jail soon after for working with Dad. It was a big shock for them but they would survive. They downgraded from living in an actual castle to a modest condo. The Aunt had a Real Estate license also so she could work. Little Suzie, whose Batmitzvah was a $50,000 event starring Debbie Gibson, painted her face white and hid in her room for a whole year in shame.
I met the aunt shortly after at a pool party. I knew the whole story of course but I had promised not to say anything. I was doing pretty well until the Aunt began to openly complain about being forced to drive a *gasp* Camry (a brand new one, mind you). This snotty snippet forced me to blurt out, “hey, tell you what, it’s a lot nicer than my car. Poor you.” I was promptly pinched hard enough to draw blood. Fuck her, I didn’t care. She was a snob, so elite she had no idea what the rest of the world lived like. All she cared about was money and without it, she was lost. For ten years this went on. Fortunately for them, she married another millionaire, the Princess daughter married a guy who owns 10 shopping malls and is part owner of the Miami Heat, and the son is now his own version of the “Condo King”. But are they happy? I think it’s all they know. They know that they were miserable without the money. Maybe that’s their “Happy”.
My favorite episode of The Twilight Zone is “A nice place to visit”. A petty criminal is shot by police while fleeing a crime scene. Visited by a man in a white suit and offered to go to a special place, he assumes he is going to Heaven. When he arrives, he finds that everything goes his way. He wins at gambling every time. When he flirts with a woman she falls for him. He wins at everything. It became so easy it was boring. He approached his friend in the white suit and said “I don’t belong in Heaven, see? I want to go to the other place.” The man in the white suit then delivers the whammy: “Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea you were in Heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!!”
All of the stuff in the world is meaningless if it doesn’t provide quality. Only quality can create happiness.
Having everything I want is one thing. Wanting everything I have is entirely another. Sure, there are things that I want that I don’t have. But I don’t need anything. And when I do, the need will be different than before. I will likely want a smaller, more practical and maintainable model of whatever it is. Enough to satisfy the need, but not enough to be a slave to it.
I never reached the pinnacle of success financially, but I did do pretty well for a long time. I recognize that money is a necessity. I don’t fault or in any way resent those that have more than I. I can only speak for myself when I say that the quest for more always created less satisfaction and more aggravation. Once you’ve reached the peak of one mountain, you look for another, higher one. It never ends, that’s what Jim Carrey was speaking of.
I want an endless pile of Real, of Quality, and Genuine. Everything else is just stuff and I’ll take that in moderation. I’ll miss it less when it’s gone.