Herbert Sweet

Herbert Sweet

Friday, September 17, 2010

Can Money Buy Happiness?

The question of whether money can buy happiness has been bantered around for longer than most of us can imagine. The general consensus seems to be that most think that they would be happier if they had more money than they have.

Yet we all know people who have nothing or at least very little and are enormously happy. And, conversely, we know people that are quite well off and are just plain miserable.

So our experience is at odds with our beliefs. So what’s wrong? The problem fundamentally lies with the materialistic philosophy of western culture. And that is the material, as obtained through the medium of exchange money, provides happiness.

It is certainly true that we exist in a material world. So money can buy sustenance and even enjoyment. The tradeoff is material for material.

The failure of materialism to secure happiness lies in the fact that happiness is not material. It is not a thing that can be bought.

In order to obtain happiness we need to understand what it is and what produces it.

As adolescents, we all strived to understand how we fit in. Somehow, we all understood something very fundamental without consciously knowing just what we were after. We knew that we wanted acceptance and recognition. But we didn’t know why. The answer is that securing acceptance and recognition is the establishment of a positive relationship between ourselves and others. It is that positive relationship that produces happiness.

We can understand this by observing how it works out for common behaviors.

If a close look is made of criminals, even those who have had some success, you will not find a single happy criminal. These folks perceive others as opposing them so they oppose them. There’s no room for happiness in a relationship where the modus operandi is opposition.

The bulk of us are not criminals but focus on our own desires even if they are at the expense of the desires of others. We see ourselves as separate from them and so rationally move to fulfill only our own desires. This separation isolates us from those around us. Isolation does not produce a decent relationship let alone a happy one.

The happy few, intuitively, grasp a different reality. They see themselves as entwined with their environment. They neither oppose it nor do they feel separated from it. So they quite naturally support the people around them. And, interestingly enough, they receive spontaneous support in return. Is it any wonder that they are the happy ones?

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