Joking about Wealth

I made jokes, maybe taunts

At the trappings of wealth

The clothes, the cars

In my poverty

My indifference to wealth

But we were all friends, then

It was all in good fun

 

It’s not fun, now

And we’re not friends, now

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Gratitude, Entitlement, and Self Image

What am I worth? Some measure their worth in monetary terms–net worth.  Some measure their worth in personal terms–I am worthy of love, I am unworthy.  Some look at their spiritual qualities.  Are we basically good?  Are we sinners?  Are we OK, you’re OK?  I’m not sure any of these are relevant questions.  And the reason is the very word “we.”

Everything we have is a gift.  What do we do by our own effort?  It looks like everything.  But life itself isn’t something we gave ourselves.  Life is a gift.  Who of us can stop our hearts from beating by our own effort?  Who among us by our own effort can take our food apart molecule by molecule and reassemble them into the carbon chain our bodies need at the moment (Krebs Cycle)?  Who has the power to be good by their own efforts?  Whose knowledge came from their own brain?  Even Jesus said, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.”

We are taught to have a healthy self-image.  We are taught to love ourselves.  We are taught to have self-confidence.  But what is the self?  The Buddhists say there is no self.  Which self am I to love?  David at 5 years of age?  David at 25?  Who I am now?  Who I’ll be tomorrow, in a year, in a decade?  Did I cause myself to grow, to age?  Certainly I made choices–I will retain that much of the self. But was my decision-making process my own?  How much of it was intuitive?  How much of my deliberations were my brain’s own wisdom, and not that to which I was exposed in my family, by my education, by conventional wisdom, impressed upon me by culture?

There’s not all that much of me that I can have a self-image of, or to have confidence in, or to love.  I’m not sure any of these issues are of that much import.  I think what matters more is the gratitude I have for the breath I take every moment, for the heart that beats for me, for the transporter enzymes that keep my cell membranes charged properly.  My interest is in what is doing all this for me.  Rather than what is called self love, my understanding of the self means love for that which is making my self.  That Being is whom I love.  Self love for me is loving the Cause for myself.

 

Getting and Spending

I think that western society finds its amusement primarily in spending money.  I know that I do.  It’s a real kick buying something new.  Almost more fun than enjoying the new thing that I buy.  William Wordsworth wrote this in his poem, THE WORLD IS TOO MUCH WITH US.  “The world is too much with us; late and soon,/Getting and spending, we lay waste to our powers.”  I wanted to entitle this blog simply, “Spending.”  But we also enjoy getting–just not as much as spending, I think.

We hear about how much poverty there is in the world, largely in developing nations.  But what we don’t hear about is community.  I’ve been impoverished and completely contented and happy.  This was in a small, rural town.  I spent many an evening sitting on back porches with friends, talking as the sun went down.  Or visiting with an elder family I knew.  Or basking in the sunlight on a summer afternoon with friends.  I read more philosophy then, drank but little.  Friends mattered more to me than they do now.

Now I’m more comfortable financially and it seems there’s always something I want.  I walked away from the casino today, which is all about getting and spending and only about it, with modest gains.  And I wrangled mentally about what I should have bet to make even more.  The stock market is the same–all based on getting and spending.  I just bought a new wool coat, but it’s too formal to wear to the blues club.  I’m thinking about buying a new leather bomber jacket.  Getting and spending.

I met only one person who said, “I have enough money.”  And that’s the only time I heard it in my life.  This person bought pots and pans for a women’s shelter with the extra money he had.  When I hear about poverty in the world, I wonder if the society in question has a sense of community that might their emotional wants more than spending would.  As was the case with me in my days of poverty in the small town.  In a society that derives its enjoyment from spending, as is ours, poverty is most certainly a curse.  But maybe poor societies are richer than ours.  (I most certainly am not talking about world hunger, which is a decidedly different issue.)  I’m not sure we can measure happiness by a culture’s ability to spend.  The cures may well be that we do measure our happiness by our capacity to spend.

I Don’t Need Your Help

Businesses today are trying to control us and numb our minds.  I believe that their goal is to turn humans into mindless zombies who will do whatever big business wants us to do.  Buy what they want us to buy.  Consider the following,

When I call my local pizza shop, I can’t order what I want until I’ve heard all the specials that they push on me.  What they want me to buy.  All I want to do is call my pizza store and order a medium pizza with pepperoni and onions.  But the pizza store wants me to order the exact same thing I ordered last time, to order their specials, to push a bunch of buttons on my phone, and its a real labor to get a medium pizza with pepperoni and onions.

Back in the ’70’s, I had a stereo receiver that had a graphic equalizer on it.  That means that I could boost, say, the high and low end, or the middle range, or any combination of 7 frequencies at will.  Now, I have to plug in a strange mike while the receiver emits a series of whoops and tweets and move this special mike to 6 different places in the room so that the receiver can make the necessary adjustments for the perfect sound for my room.  But there is a commentator on CNN who always has too much bass in his voice, and I want to lower the bass to equalize his voice.  And a lot of commercials play these low tones really loud because of the fashion of contemporary music, and, again, I’d like to dim the bass response.  But even if I brought out the strange mike and went through the procedure, I believe that the sound would be the same because that’s the way the network sends out their signal.

When I rent a new car now, I have to read the user’s manual to turn off all the new controls that the car has built into it.  I go to back up and then there is beeping and alarm bells that go off if a car gets too close.  Even if I see the car, and know it isn’t too close.  Or when I’m parking, alarms go off when I get close to the curb, which I want to do.  Or on the highway, if another car invades my car’s space another alarm goes off, startling and distracting me.  So while I’m driving these alarms start going off, which I don’t even know what some of them mean, and the result is that I’m distracted and my concentration is shaken by these safety features.  I can’t even use my iPod in some cars, because of Bluetooth technology, which my iPod doesn’t have, and the new cars don’t have an input for a cable, which my iPod requires.

All I want is the freedom to order my own pizza, adjust the dynamics of my own sound system, and to get into a car and drive, listening to my favourite music on my iPod.  That’s the way it was before technology made my life harder and harder with every new advance.  So here’s my message to today’s businesses: “I don’t need your help.  I’m your worse nightmare–a man with a mind of his own.”