Monetarily, I’ve been poor and I’ve been (relatively) rich. Having had the opportunity to compare and contrast, I would have to say that rich is much, much better. I did not enjoy my years growing up in poverty, or living off of welfare, or spending nights curled up and shivering in a sleeping bag in the back seat of my rusted-out car. I don’t like Kraft dinner and Wonder bread. I like lobster, caviar, foie gras, Belgian chocolate truffles, French perfume, and single malt scotch whisky. I like giving and receiving gifts, and being able to pick up bar tabs, buy tickets to the ballet, and take my friends and loved ones out to dinner. My income tends to be pretty “boom or bust,” so I don’t get to enjoy such rarified pleasures very often, which makes them all the more enjoyable when the chances arise, sort of like warming myself in front of a cheerful fire after coming in from the cold.
No question, then, that having access to money is something I put a high value on, and I never, ever take it for granted (even though I can be quite reckless with it). I work very hard, and am lucky enough to be doing a variety of work that I find challenging, and that stretches me in many ways, demanding consistent creativity, patience, improvisation, and persistence. I have never seen any sort of romantic nobility or spiritual transcendence in being poor. Bottom line: making cash is not something I take lightly. Although I try not to become a wage slave, and to accept the fact that I will sometimes go for long stretches of time without very much material wealth at all, I am reconciled to lying down in this devil’s bed of capitalism. It may not be the system I would ideally choose, but I ain’t gonna change it in my lifetime.
But to think that money is the only form of wealth is a false premise, far from true, that leads to a world of anxiety and frustration. Making wise decisions about how we spend our time, valuing and immersing ourselves in the pleasure of human relationships, reveling in the small wonders of the world: all of these are forms of currency far more sustainable, profound, and readily-available than Bitcoins, dollars, and bonds. What pleasure there is in gazing up at the moon, seeing the reflection of neon lights in a rain puddle, sharing a bowl of popcorn while watching an old kung fu film, or walking arm-in-arm with your best friend, window shopping in the village. What decadence there is in taking a hot bath, cradling a cup of green tea, feeling the warmth of the sunlight upon your face. What a revelation it is to just pay attention to the staggering luxuries that surround us, so many of which are free.
In my life, money comes, and money goes, but joy is forever there for the taking.