Another long day is coming to an end and in times of work fatigue as right now, I often ask myself: “Why? Why work is that important?” To pay the bills, you’d say. Well, yes, more or less that is the goal of work. Along with feeling useful, of course. Working hard allegedly means getting more money. Getting more money, in turn, means having a better life. But is it really so? Who determines what “better life” actually is? Who says if having one or two houses is deemed “prosperity”? Who says if two cars would make you happy or only one would do? Who sets the standard? Society, I hear you prompt again. The truth, though, is somewhere in between. Sure enough, we are greatly influenced by society and by our own particular environment, but we still have the capacity to set the standard ourselves. We have been given the gift of choice and free will by birth.
There’s a sweet little colloquial French expression – métro, boulot, dodo – which casts a light on the general concept of life as we see it. It literally translates as “subway, work, sleep”. It also means to do nothing but work. That arid phrase, however, poses some fundamental questions to thinking minds. Is there any particular reason we allow society to dictate us the rules as regards our well-being? To tell us what we want, when, and how much of it?
The voice of society, whose majesty is being disputed once in a blue moon, shapes our mindset from a very young age and guides it ever since. The outer world affects and forces our decisions into the right direction day after day, year after year, until we come around with imposed and/or inherited concepts and we start perceiving them as our own. Rule says, graduate. Rule says, start working. Rule says, make money. Get married, have children, and for heaven’s sake, don’t stop making money! You’ll need more of it. Every day. To buy more, to have more. The more you have, the more you want. A vicious circle with no option of exit. Greed is good, competition is good, more is good.
But what if you play by different rules? Your rules. What if you don’t crave money or property? You’re held up to ridicule, brought down, and forced by society to change your mind one way or another. “You have to work hard, you have to make money, you have to play by the rules, so go back to the machine, damn it!” (Pink Floyd’s The Wall machine referenced). Two options here – you go back to the machine or you starve to death. Most people have an issue with starving, so the machine goes on, in full capacity. And if for some reason you chose to challenge the established authority, you are labeled an “outsider” and expelled from the social tribe. Why? Because society wants a herd of sheep. Feather-brained and following the rules. The rules of consumption. Rules made by corporations and big players. Take smoking, for example. There is hardly a smoker, who is not aware of the damaging consequences of this habit. Smokers know it, tobacco producers know it. And yet, smoking is widely advertised and promoted. Why? Because tobacco industry is a money-making machine. Same goes for pharmaceutical industry. Society wants consumers. Society wants more. By all means. You’re born, you work, you die, passing on the torch to the next poor soul doomed to a life of consumption. But is this all? Is this the way it has to be? There must be something more to life than this.
Dalai Lama once said:
“Man surprised me most about humanity. 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.”
I could not possibly summarize it any better, even if I tried to.
But let’s get back to mere survival and the true meaning of financial prosperity. Alright, you have bills to pay, we all do. And surely we need food, clothes, and a shelter. But why spending your life in misery putting up with a job you hate just to gain money you’d spend in the blink of an eye for something you don’t really need? Why not discard that consumption-oriented approach? Towards life and anything else. Why not try getting out of the box for once and evaluate assets at their real value?
Hereinabove, I talked about society. But society starts with family. It all starts with family. To children, parents are naturally the first dominant role models and they act not by how you tell them to act, but how they see you acting. (That being said, I’m going to dedicate one of the next articles to children and their upbringing.) Therefore, among others, teach children to honor quality, and not quantity. Teach them that they don’t need much to be happy. Teach them to always give more than they get, for the more they give, the more they have. Oddly enough, that’s one of the universal laws.
Having more is not success. Gaining more is not success. Neither is amassing wealth. True success is finding the right balance of all your needs in the physical and spiritual aspect. Too often, little can be enough. And too often, little could mean everything. There are miserable people living in mansions, as there are happy people living in hovels. Happiness is rarely quantified in money. The enlightened soul is a succeeding soul. That kind of success is just off-scale, since it happens to be in the domain that matters the most. Living a life of awareness. Life led not by the rules that constantly change depending on the age group, community, and even country, but by the strong beliefs of the heart, proven in time by experience.