WHAT WE ARE TOLD
Like it or not, we live in a Capitalist Society. Consequentially, we are taught the attainment of things like money, cars, boats, houses, leading to overall wealth, makes up happy. We somehow think happiness is only in the future, like a big gold totem, sitting there laughing at us, until we finally get through the hurdles of pain and suffering of working everyday in a job we hate, to the end of the rainbow, to the magical place where happiness is finally obtained. As a species, we are quite intelligent, but regardless of why we do certain things, we all want the same things (barring psychopaths). How we get to look at these things is by Reductionism (finding the primal drive). However, and at a huge disappointment to Capitalism, we can all be happy without all the extra stuff. We can be happy with little money indeed.
This article is the first of three, examining the founder of Epicureanism, Epicurus (341 BC-270 BC) and some of his philosophy on being happy with little money.
Fortunately, for those lacking a large income, it seemed that the essential ingredients of pleasure, however elusive, were not very expensive.¹
Epicurus explained that there were three crucial things, above all else, disregarding all notion of material possessions, that could bring happiness. The first is friendship.
Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.
Humans are inherently social animals. We are designed that way for survival. Our sense of identity is reinforced through others. Half the problem is that our perceptions of other people can be both negative, and positive. If we compete with others for the gold happiness totem at the end of the rainbow, we are most likely a pro/passive-capitalist, and are more likely than not, to either be generally unhappy, or have fleeting moments of happiness brought on by some kind of addiction, and maybe not the obvious kind.
We use coffee to get through the week, and alcohol to forget it.
Addiction is the new black, and it comes in many forms.
Try taking someone’s mobile phone away from them, even for a few minutes, and you will see symptoms mimicking drug withdrawal.
Having friends gives us a sense of validation of existence; they continually confirm our identity. They are helpful, but only if they are true friends. Having a lot of friends that don’t really mean anything can be more detrimental than not having any at all, because they drain your energy. If they aren’t true friends, you are stuck in a constant façade; for whatever reason you are using mental energy attempting to act a particular way to appease them.
If you have to ask yourself if one of your friends is a true friend, they probably aren’t.
True friends do not evaluate us according to worldly criteria, it is the core self they are interested in; like ideal parents, their love for us remains unaffected by our appearance or position in the social hierarchy, and so we have no qualms in dressing in old clothes and revealing that we made little money this year.²
DO WE REALLY WANT WHAT WE WANT?
At age eighty-five, we might arrive, on our hands and knees, crawling past the lukewarm puddles of blood and spit, finally reaching the place where we think happiness awaits us. All metaphorical, of course, but if you really think happiness is a destination, and not allowable at any moment (by your own mind) think about this:
- Does your job make you happy?
- ‘No, not really.’
- Why do you do it?
- ‘Because I need more money.’
- Why do you need more money?
- ‘Because, one day, I will have enough money to do what I want to do.’
- What do you want to do?
- ‘I don’t know, spend more time with my friends and family. Spend more time doing the things I want to do.’
- And why do you want that?
- ‘Because I would get love and freedom’
- And why do you want that?
- ‘Because it would make me happy.’
This conversation could occur at any place of work in any country.
We do things for money because, eventually, a few paces down the line, it could lead to that magical happiness totem, that piece of happiness in the far off distance.
We may seek a fortune for no greater reason, than to secure the respect and attention of people, who would otherwise look straight through us…³
There is no measurement for love and respect, they are completely subjective. The love and respect you feel when you have nothing in your bank account, can be the same as if you had a million.
If thou wilt make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.
If we have money without true friends and true freedom, we will never truly be happy. But if we have them, but are broke, we will never be unhappy.
¹De Botton, Alain. The Consolations Of Philosophy. 1st ed. Penguin: Camberwell, Vic., 2008, 56.