What are we working for?
You may have recently heard about the Waldenesque Austrian tycoon who sold everything he owned to live in the woods. He’s got a small stipend he plans to live off of and his fortune is being used to finance his microcredit organization helping those in need in Latin America. His rationale is that his money was making him unhappy, culminating in observations of phony people in nice resorts on a recent expensive vacation. There is no explicit religious motivation behind his decision, though the concept is certainly biblical.
Money often does not buy happiness, and unexpected wealth can bring misery (or disaster). Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, concluded wealth increases human happiness when it lifts people out of abject poverty and into the middle class but that it does little to increase happiness thereafter. The pursuit of money is a joyless task in-and-of itself.
There’s certainly something romantic about abandoning civilization and simplifying life. That’s often what vacations are for people: working in some high-rise and vacation down in the Gulf of Mexico-o. Money consistently fails to deliver it’s promise of a happier life. It does provide an easier life, which is ironically not what people ultimately want. They want a simpler life. But the lure of the promise of wealth remains.
It’s certainly easy to fall into this trap. I find myself checking on how my investments are doing rather than writing letters to friends; I read reviews of gadgets I don’t have without fully utilizing the ones I have. As the wise philosopher Sheryl Crow noted It¹s not having what you want, It’s wanting what you’ve got
I have no idea why money ultimately made this man so unhappy as to want to give it all up. I am determined that it will not happen to me. Though I probably won’t have the multi-millions that he had, the lure is still there.
Resolve to live a life that uses the resources and blessings you have; viewing money as a tool to enjoy life now and assist others rather than striving for financial goals or a future ease that may not be all it seems. It’s not about being greedy, but about being grateful and content. What a shame to have funds and no one to share with or no time to enjoy it:
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun.