Sunday, July 10, 2011

Being rich

I was having dinner with some friends the other day. The current state of the economy came up as a topic of conversation. Someone pulled out a smart phone and pulled up an image of an ATM receipt. Now why would anyone care what an ATM receipt looks like? This was an unusual one. It showed a remaining balance of 99 million dollars after a withdrawal of a few hundred dollars. Whether it was a real or not, this image changed the tone of the conversation considerably. With that kind of money, simple struggles of life would vanish. Looking at the faces around the table attested to this. 

Surely money can make one’s life a lot easier and open doors to several conveniences such as time and freedom. Imagine swimming in a river. Assuming you don’t change your swimming stroke, you may expend less energy going downstream than you would going upstream. Money is like the current in the river taking you downstream. The downstream current may make swimming easier, but does not teach you how to swim.

Humans are the only living beings that have developed the need for external supports such as money, material comforts etc. Birds fly free and wild animals roam without calling one place their “home”. For us human beings, having a comfortable support structure preferably in one place, gives us a sense of security. There is nothing wrong with this, it may make life’s journey is that much easier. However, we expend a lot of energy trying to create this external scaffold of support, without understanding the several layers of support systems that we come into the world with.

It starts with the life principle or our concept of life or living. This is at the core of our being and is supported by our thoughts. A sense of being alive is first felt in our thoughts. Thoughts are contained and supported by the mind. The mind depends of the nervous system, as do the sense organs. The nervous system in turn is supported by the bony skeleton and the body, which in turn depend on nutrient intake in the form of food. All of this depends on circulating blood to carry nutrients to different parts of the body. Effectiveness of circulating blood in maintaining life in the body is dependent on oxygen in the air we breathe in. Air is freely available to us because of earth’s gravity keeps the atmosphere in close contact with earth. The gravitational pull of the earth that keeps us from flying off into space is dependent on the mass of the earth. As one thing depends on another, one cannot say that one aspect of this interdependent support structure is more important than the other. Without one, the others don’t matter.

We exist and are able to enjoy living because of this vast interdependent support structure that is gifted to us at the time of our birth. From this perspective, everyone is equally rich. When we have so much given to us to enjoy for free, why do we feel insecure when we have not built up enough money and material reserves for the future? This stems from lack of contentment. Only we can decide and convince ourselves about what our limits should be.

To know that you have enough is to be rich. - Lao Tzu