Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Mid Week Extra

Happiness and Objectivism

“Does money make you happy?” She asked me in a casual tone.

I paused, looked up from my phone and replied quickly and confidently. “Yes.”

“That didn’t take you long. Most people have to think about it.” She responded.

“Not me. “ I said and went back to answering the text message on my phone.

“I’m taking a class in college and that’s one of the questions we have to ask people.” She volunteered, followed by “Why does money make you happy?”

I pressed the “SEND” button on my phone, fold it, stuff it in my pocket and looked at my co-worker. She is in her mid to late 50’s has a football team of kids and grandkids, has worked hard all her life side by side with her husband just to eke out an existence on this mud ball known as earth. Twice a year or so she spends some money on dyeing her hair to get rid of the gray. She can recite in order all her children’s names, grandchildren’s names and everyone in her families’ birthdays. She’s pretty amazing in that aspect. When she smiles, the happiness she feels is broadcast through her eyes to whoever it is she is speaking with. She is sitting across from me, holding a steaming cup of coffee in her hands just in front of her mouth, blowing on the top of the coffee to try and cool it down before she takes a sip. “That’s the wrong question.” I say. “What you should ask me is; How does money make me happy?”


“Yes; How.”

“Ok Skip, How does money make you happy?”

“Simple, money allows me to pay bills, and put a roof over my family’s head and that makes me happy. Money lets me take my family out to dinner or a movie or both on occasion and that makes my family happy which in turn makes me happy. Money in large quantities would free up more of my time to be able to spend with my family and that would make me happy.” She stared at me, not blinking, not moving, and just staring through the steam of her coffee at me.

I was about to go on because I had more to say, but this is the exact moment when the first customers of the night came into the restaurant that I work part time. So, we stood up, put on our happy faces, because really, who wants to see a sad or grumpy waiter? And we went to work.

But, and this is a big but, if you know me, and I’m sure some of you do by now, you know that my mind constantly has stuff bouncing around inside of it. This is one of those super-ball thoughts. It didn’t stop bouncing that night and it has not stopped at all every day and every night since. This means, I have more to say on this subject.

Now, I wish I could do justice to my ideas on money and its power to grant happiness to people. But, truth be told, I’m not Ayn Rand and I’m not a character in one of her books. However; I do believe that people who say “Money is the root of all evil.” Are incorrect. Why? Simple, money holds no alignment to either good or evil. Money is a tool, a tool to be used by citizens to build better lives for themselves, families and their communities. If you use this tool improperly or selfishly you will surely end up in a bad situation. But, if used as it is intended, which is a means of exchange for goods and services then you should not have a problem.

I believe the biggest issue is most people do not know how to properly handle the money they either earn or are given. And thus are subject to abusing the money or misusing it in a fashion where they become deeper in debt or lose all of what they have. Which tells me, certain people, or maybe all people, are at times irresponsible with their finances and thus blame the fact that they do not have enough money to cover their debts. At this point, I’m sure, one can make a very solid argument against the lending and banking institutions that pretty much dominate our country and have a stranglehold on the government in Washington. (I’m not going into this because it just spawns more contempt and conspiracy theories about our country.)

Back to what I was saying; to say money is the root of all evil or that money is evil in general is like saying a hammer is evil because it helped build a building on a construction site that temporarily re-routed traffic and made you late for work. It’s not the hammers fault; the hammer is just a tool in the machine of progress. Besides, that building could be a new multiplex cinema that you’ll be bringing your next date to. And who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with that person, settle down, get married, buy a house, have a couple kids, send them to good school and maybe one day, when your kids are teenagers and going on their first dates to the same multiplex cinema and you and your spouse are sitting on the front porch drinking Metamucil talking about the good ol’ days of 10 dollar movies you’ll remember that you once blamed a hammer for being late to work, which then made you take an elevator ride with a woman or man that you finally had the courage to ask out to that movie theatre and fall in love. Course it won’t be the hammers fault then, will it? Nope, you’ll say it was God or Destiny or Fate or some other such gentle and good being that gives you the warm fuzzies at night. But it most definitely won’t be the hammers fault.

Just like it’s not money’s fault. Now, don’t get me wrong, money or hammers can be used for evil/bad purposes. But they have no idea what purpose they are being used for. How could they? They are inanimate objects! If money is used to purchase a hammer that is then used to build a homeless shelter we say it is a good thing. But, if that same money is used to buy a hammer that is then used to smash in someone’s skull, then we say that the hammer is bad or evil. The hammer will most likely end up at the bottom of a river or in a Police evidence locker. If it does end up in an evidence locker then it will most likely be used in a court case where the District Attorney will waive the hammer in front of twelve jurors’ horrified faces with all the blood and bits of hair dried and dangling from the business end.

Now, the DA will say the killer is evil and must be put to death, the Defense Attorney will say the defendant wasn’t loved enough as a child and is the product of an abusive home and needs our understanding and care.

Who’s right, who’s wrong?

I don’t have those answers. I wish I did, I wish I were half as wise as King Solomon or even had a quarter of the wisdom of Socrates, but I don’t and I most likely never will. I’m about as average as you can get in the wisdom area. I do however try to recognize the difference between right and wrong and adhere to the truths in which direction I choose. Am I saying I’ve always been responsible with my money, my choices, my tools and my life? No, I’m not. I don’t think anyone can say they’ve always been 100 percent responsible every second of their lives. And I don’t think anyone can say that about themselves well, except for Jesus and he’s not around anymore.

Lastly, does this mean I’m always going to be responsible? Nope. But it does mean I know what makes me happy and I am willing to admit it. I know how to go about getting what I need as well as what my family needs and I know what tools to use and in what manner to use them. In the end, it all comes down an individual’s personal choice in how they want to use the tools they’ve earned through their labor and sweat.

I hope you, dear reader, know what makes you happy and if you don’t that you recognize the tools of happiness when they show up knocking on your door.

Talk to you soon.

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