This week in the Alan Watts lecture, he said, “We are living in a society where, as I’ve often said, we are menu eaters. We eat the menu instead of the dinner because we are more interested in accumulating the tokens of wealth than wealth…we tend, on the whole, to confuse symbol with reality.”
What would real wealth look like if you were to reframe wealth in your life?
Life reframed my perspective on wealth. Specifically, severe chronic illness revealed to me what matters and what doesn’t. Acceptance matters. Forgiveness matters. Kindness matters. Love matters. Gratitude matters. Forgiveness matters. Laughter matters. Generosity matters. Character matters. Forgiveness matters. Helping wherever possible matters. Caring for our environment matters. Responsible consumption matters. Forgiveness matters. Hope matters. Spirituality matters. There’s no supermarket for these things. But seeds are plentiful because we can generate them merely by thinking about them. They self-propagate and are fiercely contagious.
Likewise, fear matters. Anger matters. Resentment matters. Judgment matters. Harsh words matter. Pain matters. Grief matters. Sorrow matters. Despair matters. Just as we must embrace and nurture the seeds that nourish, we must also embrace those things that challenge and even harm us. We must hold them in love and acceptance. These are just as much a part of us as those things we cherish and wish to share with the world. They matter. As hard as it sometimes is to embrace the difficulties in life, doing so helps us to see the lessons embedded in those difficulties. If you believe everything happens for a reason, as I do, the underlying inference is that every adversity, every hardship, every hurt, every regret, every trial, all contain important life lessons. Seeing those lessons is the hard part – and I mean truly hard because it involves an admission that we play an integral role in being hurt, in holding regret, in identifying with hardship, in even naming adversity as adversity.
The things that really don’t matter all have price tags on them. Not that everything with a price tag doesn’t matter – obviously, food matters, housing matters, safety matters, health matters. Things we collect, we’ll be leaving those things behind. I learned to enjoy what’s enjoyable and to stop collecting things. Over-consumption is suffocating our planet. I won’t participate in that destruction.
Life is abundant. There’s no need for adornment unless the adornment brings us or someone else joy, because joy matters.
I have a Mercedes AMG C63s ‘Estate’ which I have in silver and we have lovingly named it ‘The Silver Bullet’. It’s the wagon version of their flagship high end sports sedan.
The Mercedes symbolises wealth, strength, power, style and financial success. The ‘Estate’ version of it is rare and therefore has a symbolic aspect that chimed with my individuality / ego as a connoisseur…
When I bought it five years ago, I was going through a life crisis as getting divorced, struggling with an illicit drug problem and in the process of losing my highly paid job as an Investment Advisor at a well-known Swiss bank. I was high when I bought the car!
I hit rock bottom shortly after buying the car and my awakening begun with an epiphany that I experienced one dark night of the soul about four and half years ago. The spiritual journey has continued and I’m still very much on the journey of awakening and grateful for all the lessons.
These days the reality is that the car is used as our family wagon for beach trips and shuffling kids around and getting the groceries. It has depreciated to half of what I paid for it in the time I’ve owned it. I can’t sell it because I can’t afford to pay out the finance contract which is significantly higher than the car is worth at market prices and the car has too many kms (miles) to be attractive to used car buyers. It also needs some repairs which I can’t afford as Mercedes is very expensive to repair.
The wealth we get from the car is still significant because it provides safe, comfortable transport and meets the needs of our family in that respect. However, it could have been achieved for a fraction of the cost with a second-hand Toyota or Subaru or something.
Had I not made that decision, I also would have had far less financial stress and the money that has gone into the Mercedes could have been used for far more important things such as children’s activities, family holidays or savings for a family home (we rent).
Real wealth for me is the ability to continually expand my awareness of myself and my world. Becoming rich means piercing the illusions of the industrial societies, seeing through my masks as well as masks of others, and being able to relate to myself and others without the use of masks. My wealth is my understanding of the world as it is - not as I wish it to be and not as it is told to me by others - and to be able to hold this space while being blown sideways through life.
Reframing wealth is something I do all the time. I know my core values are very simple, I don’t desire “extra things”, and the way my husband and I live and spend matches up to our income/lifestyle.
I enjoy so much in life that is essentially free and cannot be bought with money, so that’s where wealth is my heart and head. By enjoying life now, I can stay in the present. I’m also grateful for all I have especially being able to pay for this course!
I think for us the problems with wealth have more to do with the fear of having to liquidate it all, become homeless, and file bankruptcy due to medical needs, a real problem in the USA. We’ve already experienced some “big hits” in this area. However, we can only plan and do so much. Then that’s just the next step of the journey too, right? So, that’s the part we’re learning to not cling to so much…possessions, owning a home, owning cars. We’re downsizing and simplifying all the time now.
It also helps both of us that we do not compare ourselves to others around us. We have many family and friends who are much wealthier than us and spend their money as they see fit on things they desire. If it makes them happy, then we are happy for them and tell them so, not jealous. Not being jealous has taken a lot of practice, but we’re there in our lives.
The memories the propelling forces of capitalism allow us to share together rather than solely the material vehicles which enable said memories to be sharedddd (those vehicles though? Pretty effin’ sweet…to be celebrated, even…)