A wealthy man was generously offering his counsel to a poor man. He said, “The truth of the matter is this: Money can’t buy you love.”
The dispensing of wisdom was briefly interrupted by the arrival of a UPS delivery driver. “Ah. If you’ll excuse me, I see my daily delivery of useless plastic consumeristic widgets made in China has arrived. A box! A box! Oh goodie, a box!”
Spittle flew from jiggly jowls as the man lurched for his box cutter and sliced open the cardboard like a battlefield surgeon. There wasn’t even time for triage. In moments he held the widgets up before his eyes, which briefly glazed over as various pleasure centers in his brain were involuntarily activated, then in a few mere seconds he carelessly tossed the items aside. He was already bored with them.
“Now then, where were we? Ah yes, true happiness must come from within.”
The poor man marveled at the other man’s words since the wealthy man based his entire existence on everything economic. He worked 60 or more hours a week. He constructed elaborate plans to squeeze pennies out of nothing, like running accounts through multiple payment systems to earn airline miles, rewards, cash back and points.
When the man bragged about achievements in his life, it always revolved around words like money, discounts and savings. He’d brag about the 50-gallon drum of Heinz ketchup he purchased at Costco and how it saved him one penny per ounce on unit price. Of course, he now also had a 50-gallon drum in his kitchen, but that was never the point.
“Have you tried that new all-you-can-eat buffet in town?” he asked one day. “Lunch is only $9 and dinner is $14, only $5 more. If you go, go for lunch. That’s the best time to go.”
The poor man couldn’t help himself. “Have you ever noticed,” he asked, “how you never talk about a restaurant in terms like the deliciousness of the food? The atmosphere? The service? It’s never those things. Only words like price and value. ‘That meal was a good value,’ you often say. Well, what about the food? Did it taste good? Did you have a good time?”
“All food is basically the same,” the wealthy man replied. “What varies far more greatly is the price that you pay for it.”
The poor man just sadly shook his head.
The poor man could see the logic that happiness shouldn’t be tied to something like money. A poor man could be happy and a rich man could be unhappy. He understood that. But he bristled at the notion of this sort of philosophy being shoved down his throat by someone with an obvious conflict of interest in the point at hand.
Then he realized it. The wealthy man, the one saying that money had nothing to do with happiness, was the one who loved money the most of all. Money was the prism through which he saw the entire world. Money was what he prized more than time with family or even the things it bought. Yet this was a man who chose to spend his time telling poor people they should believe the exact opposite thing.
Having gained just a little bit of perspective, awareness and enlightenment, the poor man merely felt sadness for the rich man while feeling a little bit happier for himself. At least I’m not like that, he thought.