Opinion business

A Financial Reflection



“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Dalai Lama

Many of our desires are destructive. Our infatuation with money is one of them. Striking the rare balance between mastering the art of making money, while simultaneously living a meaningful life is the ultimate challenge.

There are many good arguments for why money is appealing. For one thing, money is a signalling tool. Humans are driven to successfully reproduce, and money is a sign of their reproductive fitness. A woman who wants to have children wants security. Money provides her and her offspring with security. She will look for men who have successfully accumulated money, because they have the resources to secure her in the future.

Today, women are capable of supporting themselves, their children and their husband if they choose to. But the psychological motivations behind money remain the same for genders. Hyper-competitive men are willing to work 80 hour weeks and sacrifice their health and social life to become rich. They make money based on how much value they are creating. Women, get to choose among the most successful men, and they are in turn chosen for their youth, beauty, and other signs that indicate they could potentially be mothers with healthy offspring.

But money has the ability to cloud our thinking and dominate our desires. Many people set their goals according to how much income they can make, and make irrational life choices in order to make more of it even if they don’t really need it.

Money according to Harari in Sapiens, is the greatest story ever told. A story is defined by him as a common set of beliefs held by people. No one questions the value of the dollar. Even people who are hell-bent on destroying society, culture and economies believe in the story of money. Terrorist organizations might have no problem denigrating the cross or burning it, but you won’t see them burning money.

People who make money are receiving a form of social capital. When society gives you wealth, it’s a form of feedback that says, “what you’re doing is valuable.”

The trouble is that a lot of people seem to be at either extreme, choosing to reject the concept of money, or make it the dominant factor in their lives. Instead, money should be thought of as a tool, like language, influence, and strength.

A miser, to make sure of his property, sold all that he had and converted it into a great lump of gold, which he htd in a hole in the ground, and went continually to visit and inspect it. This roused the curiosity of one of his workmen, who, suspecting that there was a treasure, when his master’s back was turned, went to the spot, and stole it away. When the miser returned and found the place empty, he wept and tore his hair. But a neighbor who saw him in this extravagant grief, and learned the cause of it, said: “Fret thyself no longer, but take a stone and put it in the same place, and think that it is your lump of gold; for, as you never meant to use it. the one will do you as much good as the other.”

The worth of money is not in its possession, but in its use. FABLES, AESOP, SIXTH CENTURY B.C

But despite the platitudes that we like to tell ourselves about money, the reality is that many of our moral judgments are simply rationalizations of whatever is financially advantageous to us. The U.S doesn’t sell weapons to Saudi Arabia because it wants to protect it from Iran, or create a safer Middle East, it does so to become a wealthier society.

Being aware of the attraction of money and its limitations is important. Despite its power, money can also blind you as an individual. It can warp your sense of what is important in life, and can lead you down the tragic path the Dalai Lama described. It’s silly to denounce money, for there is nothing inherently evil about it. The problem is that we are not sophisticated enough to know how to psychologically cope with technologies such as money or the internet.

We regularly invent things that become more powerful than us, and far from taking pause, and reflecting – we march on to figuring out the next big disruption. We are not a reflective species, we are a reactive one – yet we have the ability to reflect. And perhaps the evolutionary advantage of our developed capacity to reflect is to avoid the dangers that lie so clearly ahead.

“In what constitutes the real happiness of human life, they are in no respect inferior to those who would seem so much above them. In ease of body and peace of mind, all the different ranks of life are nearly upon a level, and the beggar, who suns himself by the side of the highway, possesses that security which kings are fighting for.”

Adam Smith

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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