The theory that money can't buy happiness has always
seemed more than a bit implausible to me''especially when I was just out of
college, broke and eager to test the hypothesis.
I was more a student of the 'the lack of money is the
root of evil' school of thought. At least that was an experience with which I
had intimate familiarity.
My wife and I were happy, but I think I would have been
happier if our family car, affectionately dubbed the poopmobile, hadn't needed
another gallon of water in the radiator every 30 minutes. As I ironed one of my
two dress shirts each evening before going to my first real job each morning, I
couldn't help but think that a little more money would do wonders for my
happiness, if not my professional appearance.
Money gets a bad rap in our society, mostly from people
who wish they had more of it, or those who think someone else has more than
their 'fair share.' It's interesting to see the things that make people jealous.
A friend of mine collects saws''simple hand saws, the
kind with wooden handles that you might use to cut a 2x4. He has old saws, new
saws. Saws from around the country. Saws made from unique woods. Saw blades that
are indestructible. Old saw blades that barely still exist. This fellow is a bit
strange, and so is his hobby. Few people, however, would consider either him or
his collection immoral.
What about the man who collects money? Should he be
considered any different? Why do so many people look at the man who collects
money as some sort of financial pervert, a soulless miser, committed to make
every peasant work on Christmas Eve?
We're jealous of the man with money, and we often assume,
wrongly, that wealth can be accumulated only by taking it from another person.
Ours is a culture that loves money, as long as we
have it, not someone else. Mark Twain noticed an interesting cultural
phenomenon: 'Few people can stand prosperity. Another man's, that
No state lottery tempts gambling addicts with the prospect of hundreds of
rare handsaws. No one would ever judge the value of a man by the number or
scarcity of the old saws in his garage. But we do it all the time with respect
What does it mean to discuss 'how much a man is worth'? When we ask the
question in our culture, we certainly aren't discussing or measuring generosity,
social contributions, intellectual capacity or spiritual health. When we ask how
much a man is worth, we want to know how much money he has.
Our universally accepted definition of worth is almost exclusively in
monetary terms, yet we then turn around and wonder why our children are so much
more materialistic than we were at similar ages.
How could they be any different?