I had this dream when I was very young. I would have a great family, and enough money so that nobody can pull my strings. Sixteen words! Enough to carry around. Short enough to drive a vision. It was a very ambitious vision as it turned out. Being great at anything is such a life-dominant notion. Besides what exactly is a great family today? And how much is enough money? And being free seems totally fucking incongruous with time spent in pursuit of great family and lots of money. When you think about it, how does one have all three? Certainly not all at once.
Abraham Lincoln said “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”
You can please family by spending time with them, but it is hard to spend quality time with your family when you feel pressure to work all the hours to earn the money.
You can be freer if you have money, but for most of us the effort it hoovers up a great deal of our lifetime (if ever we succeed) before we have enough to be free to do what we want to do.
Trying to earn the big bucks will suck you into a vicious cycle of more and more work with less and less family or ‘me’ time.
How much then is enough? Money encroaches into almost every facet of our society: food, meals out, utility bills and mortgages, gas, fashion, day trips and holidays.
For the great playwright Sean O’Casey, Money didn’t make him happy “but it quiets the nerves”. It is true that having money in the bank may mean you worry less about surviving, but for people with cash in vaults they want a lot more than just survival.
Whether driven by a vision, by greed or by the determination to give their children a better standard of living than they had, it is that burning desire that propels people forward into money-worship.
And, as any Buddhist will tell you, desire is the root of all pain. The more we want, the less happy we become.
The idea of a Great family in the West is a moving target today. Working models of roles are fluid, and the rights of the individual to be happy supersede those of the family. Women often now work all day and then arrive home to another equivalent full day of work as mother and housewife. Across the World, women do about three quarters of all the work for less than a quarter of the money.
Today, the Kennedy family model would be an anomaly. Nowadays, both parents’ salaries are needed to pay the mortgage. Children are shipped off to day care from just a few months old. What effect does this have on them long term?
For these new model families in the West, they are both often working twice as hard for just enough money to pay the bills. Are they free or are they enslaved by the high cost of modern living?
Freedom means different things to different people. To a person fighting for freedom it could mean honor and challenge. For a partner or spouse fighting for freedom it could mean to them the loss of a partner as the other rejects the constraints their partnership seems to impose. For an entrepreneur it could mean that final breakthrough and profits. To a traveler it’s having enough money to survive, a good place to eat, a place to stay and no responsibility.
How is it possible to have family, money and freedom at the same time? Probably, it’s not possible. Balance and compromise will help cut through this disquiet in the soul.
To answer ‘how much is enough?’ depends on what you consider to be real treasure. Is it gold, diamonds, designer labels and millions of dollars, or a loving smile from your child? Even the poorest laborer can usually feed his family. The answer for the rest of us, I think, is to desire less and value the small things more than the ethereal pleasures of alluring consumer products.