[blue rare]—A Luxury That Money Can’t Buy

Like Lennon and McCartney, I don’t tend to care too much for money.  I’m not so sure about their assertion that it “can’t buy me love,” though.  Margaret Atwood once observed that  “the Eskimo had fifty-two names for snow, because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.” If I had to put an estimate on it, I would say that 46 or 47 of those purported varieties of love (or at least an adequate knock-off of them) probably can be purchased.  (Maybe not the best quality varieties, though, I’ll grant you that.)

Overall, I find it hard to warm up very much to money.  For one thing, it tends to be very filthy, both literally and figuratively.  For another, it’s hard to acquire (for most of us, at least), and harder still to hang onto.  All too often, it brings out the very worst aspects of ourselves.  Most of the greatest evils ever perpetrated by our species have the pursuit of money deeply enmeshed in their causes.  On a smaller, more human scale, it breaks families apart, creates untold anguish, causes us to become the meanest, pettiest, most tedious, and vulgar versions of ourselves.

Still, though (hedonistic socialist that I am), I’m rather fond of a great many of the things that money can buy.  I like going to my local Greek restaurant, for instance, and ordering a plate of their very good moussaka and a carafe of their reasonably decent house red, without having to sort out my “dine and dash” strategy before the bill arrives.  I enjoy occasionally being able to purchase books, records, and chocolate biscuits.  Once in a blue moon, I relish the chance to remove myself to foreign lands and wander around, seeing all manner of things I’ve never seen before.

The problem is that nothing of real value was ever inspired by money.  An accomplished musician or a talented chef can improve the quality of innumerable lives.  A brilliant storyteller, no matter what their medium, can remind us why life has meaning and value.  To do these things well is to possess a gift so rare and remarkable it might as well be a minor superpower, like being able to glow in the dark, or hover above the ground.

Yet, too often, people who do these things very, very well do so for very little financial gain.  If money did what it was supposed to do – which in my book is to reward those who contribute the most to society – then artists, artisans, nurses, waitresses, and teachers would pull in the kinds of wages that hedge fund managers and property developers currently do.

Perhaps we will one day achieve the creation of a more enlightened world, in which resources are more fairly distributed; a world not so dominated by corruption, nepotism, ruthlessness, self-interest, and greed.  Perhaps, then, we will realize that nobody should starve or be unable to afford a safe place to live.  In this world, perhaps it will be understood that nobody – certainly not the Koch brothers, and not even Taylor Swift – needs or deserves a fleet of private jets.  I’m not holding my breath, though, and I’m sure you’re not either.  So, in the absence of that, I just hope we can always keep in mind that doing what one does best, and for the sheer love of it, is the sort of luxury that filthy money just can’t buy.