By Kwame Salter
Whoever said money can't buy happiness didn't know where to go shopping.
How many times have you heard or even perhaps said it yourself, "Once I get some money, everything will be all right?" Each of us has our own "everything list." While the specific items on our "everyday list" may differ, one word — happiness — summarizes the items on our list.
Does having money guarantee happiness? What does happiness feel or look like? Is happiness an illusion, streak of fortuitous events or a destination? Regardless of how we view happiness, far too many of us see a direct correlation between how much money one has and how happy we are or can be.
This preoccupation with money as a precursor or a guarantee of happiness remains deeply embedded in most societies around the world. Without question, money can minimize or even eliminate many life challenges that preoccupy our thinking and actions daily. But the real question is whether money addresses the causes of our unhappiness — or the symptoms?
The impact of money on our external conditions can be immediate and life-changing. Still, I would submit that money alone cannot address the fundamental causes of our unhappiness. Sure, with enough money one can move to a "better" neighborhood, buy new cars, eat at more upscale restaurants or marry the "ideal" spouse, etc.
However, money, like alcohol or other recreational drugs, does not change a person; it brings out the real person in you. For example, if you were a poor jerk, money will reveal and amplify that fact — you become a rich jerk. And if you were generous prior to your financial windfall, most likely philanthropy is something that would appeal to you.
The issue is not money per se, as my mother would often remind me. She would cite the Bible verse 1 Timothy 6 (KJV), "For the love of money is the root of all evil." Money can be a powerful tool for good. Bill/Melinda Gates, LeBron James and, most recently, Robert F. Smith, the black billionaire who pledged to pay off the student debts of the 2019 graduating class at Morehouse, an elite Historically Black College University (HBCU) come to mind as individuals who didn't fall "in love" with money.
Ask some lottery winners: Is money a cure-all? The money will not solve issues of self-esteem, correct personality disorders or give the rich a hall pass to live forever — longer life maybe, but not eternal life. Regardless of one's wealth or lack thereof, nature treats all humans the same. A flower's fragrance is not stronger or more aromatic for the monied class; a serene and placid lake is equally enchanting to both the monied class and the poor. Even with sophisticated programming, the public elevator doesn't recognize the net worth of people waiting.
With money, you can elude the persons, places or things that irritate or vex you. However, what you cannot escape are the issues lodged in your mind. As my father would remind me, "A person can move from a cold-water studio flat in Jersey City to a penthouse in Manhattan and still be unhappy. Because what they are running from is not the old flat but from themselves. What they are running from they carry with them wherever they go — between their ears."
Answer Book 2019
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