Sunset in Venice

Richer Lives Are About…

You’ve got to make money. Money makes the world go round. Imagine all that you could do, the happy you’d be, if only you were rich… Greed is good! Make a killing, live happily ever after!

The very phrases betray the problem; and the focus on money alone hides the real question: What is the money for?

All too often, the (hunt for) money becomes an end in itself – but Disney’s Uncle Scrooge is such a joke exactly because he enjoys the money for its own sake, not because of anything he could do with it (other than bathe in it…).

Making a living is what we need to do, and focusing on life and happiness as part of this world, we can also ask ourselves what a richer life can, should and does mean.

For some, it is going to mean lots of money and the freedom it brings, as Ramit Sethi, popular guru of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich“, recently described it for himself. However, if you think you must have lots of money and the bi-coastal, jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous, you may well need ever more money and just end up with the worries of the rich – not least, with never having enough. And of course, it simply won’t work for the vast majority of us.

For others, the money more obviously takes a backseat (but a driving one) to skills at hacking the system for their own advantage and the grandiose adventures it enables them to have and be adulated for. To stick with the personal development crowd, take Tim Ferriss as example: poster child of individualism run amok, but also someone who preaches and (re)presents that life and experiences are more important than money and possessions, and that a dream life (of that persuasion) takes more courage and conviction than cash.

With an #ecohappy perspective, things get more muddled, because they get more meaningful and realistic.

Here, we cannot just do whatever we can, because we can, but some consideration of the wider implications – happiness as part of this world – has to enter the picture.
It may be better to stay at home than to travel the world – if the latter means nothing but touring the world accruing frequent flier miles and pushing one’s path further down a mere list of places visited, without regard for the resource consumption and pollution it entails (and without even truly experiencing life in those places).
On the other hand, if staying at home means nothing much more than the accumulation of ever more stuff and/as the hunt for ever more “success” in the rat race, it may be better – in many regards – to give away everything but what is truly essential…

Sunset in Venice
A Sunset in Venice. Of course it’s something noticed more when it’s particularly spectacular or enjoyed as a tourist visiting a spectacular place – but what makes it special, then, is still mainly the time taken to enjoy it.
So, when was the last time you took the time to notice and enjoy a sunset?

No, what it takes is an honest look at the reality of the things that make us happy and the ways we and our happiness are bound up in this world.

Speaking of richer lives sounds as if it had to be about lots of money, lots of nice, expensive things, and not having to worry about any cost. Even the millionaires worry, though, because they work too hard and miss out on other things, or don’t have to work, but don’t have as much as their billionaire friends, and even that could be taken away, or, or, or… There’s always something, especially when you don’t truly find your own meaning and, more importantly, doing.

Richer living starts with getting by. With life. Having the skills, and the attitude, to make and have enough. Being able to handle whatever life throws at you. Doing all you can – with what you have. Letting limits be a guideline, and then playing with them creatively.

Growing, by learning, even more; getting better at what you do in how you live, whether that be a job, entrepreneurial activities, or simply  (by the way: simply?) raising a child, learning more, building skills – or building a house, keeping it well, cooking and heading out to explore your area, growing a garden, doing something for fitness, fun, food…

One of the best cases to illustrate the notion may be cooking. Of course, some people may truly hate it and simply be bad at it – the ideas in the background will still apply, though. Besides, having at least an inkling of cooking, and/or of nutrition, is such  a fundamental skill – after all, if you want to live, you need to eat – everybody should know something of it.

It’s also seemingly problematic because it has come to be defined as drudgery. Emancipation, if not progress itself, is the escape from the kitchen – right into the welcoming cubicles and assembly lines of wage-slave jobs, the suffocating warmth of the fast food joint and their obesifying fare, the unhealthy, unfulfilling and expensive lifestyle of the contemporary ever-less-middle-class average.
So, as Tracie McMillan argues in Slate, “Cooking isn’t fun. But you should do it anyway.” And there are more reasons for that than stated there…

After all, what’s waiting on the other side, in the kitchen – and more generally, in the #ecohappy living?

  • A fundamental skill, where it’s easy to get the basics, and where there’s always something more to try out (though one should be careful to focus on building skill, not be drawn in by the promise of – and just clutter the kitchen with ever-more – gadgets that are oh-so-necessary and helpful);
  • control over your nutrition and thus a contribution to the health and well-being of you and yours;
  • a better grip on finances, prioritizing what is necessary – some better ingredients are more expensive, but some of them are worth it; many great ingredients provide cheaper and better nutrition than convenience “foods”;
  • a world of tastes and textures, flavors and aromas;
  • the diversity of dishes you can put on the table, where there’s both quick and simple fare that’s tasty if done with good ingredients and a little skill, and always something new to try out and explore – and shape a connection with entirely different parts of the world;
  • the “everyday life lesson” that some things may not be all that much fun, but should be done anyways;
  • the skill, community and beneficial pleasure in cooking and eating together (various studies blame ill developments, from obesity to the decline in marriage satisfaction and a worsening upbringing of kids on the disappearance of the common mealtime where the whole family would come together to eat) – which may also, rather than “cost time,” help in re-focusing attention and time to the things that matter most, such as health and community rather than health-destroying convenience all for relaxing in front of the TV.

Of course, as always, the greater happiness is hard, in a way.

It entails actively doing, not just passively consuming. It must be lived, not bought.

It is, however, worth it on many levels. The challenge is to count one’s blessings in more meaningful ways than just in terms of money in the bank and great adventures purchased and over with, but rather to bring up the energy to get going, with both the doing and a counting that truly counts.

It’s not about the cooking – but it is about the living.
It’s not about being rich in the bank, either – but it is about living richly.


One thought on “Richer Lives Are About…

Leave a Reply