As someone who loves money and motivation, I’m surprised I haven’t written about these two elements of life yet. As beings, we largely agree that more money = more happiness, and mo’ money = mo’ problems. What’s most intriguing is the analysis of money and happiness when plotted out on a graph. Undoubtedly, there is a positive correlation between the two, and now even the happiness plateau theory is falling to the wayside. The richer countries are, the happier everyone is. Money is the great equalizer; “across language, culture, religion, ethnic background, the same amount of extra money seems to buy the similar amount of extra happiness.” Despite the evidence, I’m not willing to say that my bank account reflects my level of happiness, or even my comfort as a being in the universe; however, money buys time and opportunities to be happy.
When I was a kid, I thought being rich meant going to the mall and buying everything you wanted, regardless of the cost. I had it all wrong. Being rich is really getting other people to do your chores for you, so you can go to the mall and do whatever else you want. When you have money, you can meet your needs easisly. Without wondering about the burden of food, water, and survival, you are free to reach self-actualization; whatever that self-actualization entails is up to you. Survey where you fall on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: How often do you quell your deepest desires after you’ve been hounded all week by unnecessary obligations? After a long week, I usually just get drunk and talk about the world, which are two of my hobbies thankfully, but I wonder how I would spend my time if I had more of it. Most people fall somewhere in the top tiers of the pyramid, wavering between lines when having bouts with others and self-doubts. Maslow argues that we must grapple with morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts to live up to our potential.
You can and should explore your interests and the universe with your privileged freedom to do whatever. Maybe it’s living the glamorous life: diamonds, opera, ballet, philanthropic meals of salmon, and everything else that appeals to your senses and unique sense of class… But I hope it’s more than that. Go cross your legs at the top of a mountain for weeks at a time like Japhy Ryder, or spend an afternoon perfecting your free throw without looking at your watch. Icons are made through self-exploration: the more time spent pushing pencils, the less self-discovery you do.
Economic privilege weighs heavily on self-actualization, thus closing doors on those without the means of their counterparts. The president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York synthesizes this complex issue in a powerful way: “…In the decades ahead, Americans face yet another challenge: how to keep our democracy and our society from being divided not only between rich and poor, but also between those who have access to information and knowledge, and thus, to power—the power of enlightenment, the power of self-improvement and self-assertion, the power to achieve upward mobility, and the power over their own lives and their families’ ability to thrive and succeed—and those who do not.” As a society, we have to consider the impact of our rigid socioeconomic system. Everyone needs to have the ability to ask questions, to solve problems, to get what they need. This is an overwhelming task, but there is progress being made, such as The Digital Public Library of America which gives online access to public holdings of all libraries, archives, and museums to all Americans. You won’t need a college id or hefty tuition to access knowledge. No doubt, more money means more opportunity, but there are ways to share the wealth of knowledge without cost.
Regardless of the money in our bank accounts, we all commonly want to reach this feeling: “Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running—that’s the way to live. All alone and free in the soft sands of the beach by the sigh of the sea out there” –Keroauc, The Dharma Bums