Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Short Essay About Money

The thing money can most effectively buy is comfort. An extra $2000 will buy you a slightly wider plane seat and an extra $300 commands nicer sheets on your hotel bed. If you're not obsessed with comfort, then having extra money (beyond the amount you need to comfortably survive) will not be particularly significant for you. Don't waste time climbing a ladder unless you've considered whether you actually want the thing you're striving toward.

Money at least appears to buy peace of mind. When I was a struggling jazz trombonist, if I'd get a parking ticket, it would ruin my day. I'd feel dejected...and I'd pay the damned ticket. Now, when I get a parking ticket, I remain calm...and I pay the damned ticket. Calmness was always an option, so the only change was internal; I arbitrarily changed the story I told myself about the situation. I could just as easily have reacted calmly before - lord knows the stress and dejection never helped. It was always indulgent.

And it's good to bear in mind that even if you're at the poverty line in America, you are rich beyond the wildest dreams of the vast majority of humanity. You are richer than 99% of humans who've ever lived. In terms of sheer comfort (again, money = comfort), you are far better pampered than any historical king or emperor, with your indoor plumbing, central heating, automobile (and highway system), overabundance of food and entertainment, nearly-assured personal safety and broadband Internet. Julius Caesar would have swapped places with you in a heartbeat.

Remember this the next time you notice someone has a bigger TV or nicer apartment than you, making you feel "poor". You're not poor. You're just slightly less fabulously wealthy.

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