“As countries get richer, many of the people living
in them seem to be getting unhappier.”
~ Laura Paddison
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Do we really agree that money can’t buy happiness? Or, are we secretly sure that we could defy the odds and disprove the saying?
There’s an old joke about a pilot addressing his passengers: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some good news and some bad news. First, the good news – we are well ahead of schedule. Now, the bad news: we are hopelessly lost.”
Yes, we’ve created more wealth and comfort for ourselves here in the United States than at any time in our brief history. Simultaneously, nearly 40 million people (one in eight) live below the poverty line, including one in six of our children (13 million children). And nearly 1.3 million school children were officially homeless in 2015.1
How can this be? Here’s a clue: “A report released by the World Economic Forum on Wednesday found that, while the U.S. economy is the most competitive in the world, it has come at the expense of a “weakening social fabric.” Life expectancy is falling, driven in part by increases in “deaths of despair” ― people dying from suicide and substance abuse. This particularly affects white men without a college education who are falling between the cracks and dropping out of the workforce ― about 15 percent of men ages 25 to 54 are not working.
“It’s not just an American issue, either. China’s economic growth has been phenomenal. Between 1990 and 2009, its gross domestic product increased by at least four times and life expectancy increased from 67 to 74 years, yet life satisfaction has tumbled. India too, another economic success story, has seen life satisfaction levels drop by 10 percent between 2006 and 2017.” 2
So, wealth is increasing while life satisfaction is dropping. This means that not only does more money fail to make us more happy, it actually seems to be making us less happy. For anyone struggling to pay the bills, such a statement will seem preposterous and there is a caveat. Money does improve life satisfaction, but only up to a point. Experts have pegged that point at $75,000 annually in the United States.
“No matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness.” This revelation appeared in a 2010 edition of Time magazine, based on a Princeton University study conducted by economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman. 3
So, what do people do with all that extra money and the leisure time it buys them? Many watch porn. The porn industry is valued at almost $100 billion annually, enough money to feed about 5 billion people a day. You think Hollywood is big? It is. Hollywood releases 600 movies a year which generate $10 billion in profit. Meanwhile, 13,000 porn films are produced every year, generating $15 billion in profit. That’s more money than Major League Baseball, The NFL, and The NBA… combined! 4
So, people ruin their health and families making big bucks to spend on artificial love… when they could experience the real thing for free. Could there possibly be any better example of the insanity that riddles modern society?
If that’s the bad news, what’s the good news? Well, at the same time, we are witnessing (and some of us are participating in it) an unprecedented values transformation. Millions of people are going for the real thing (Love with a capital L) and spurning the substitutes. How do we do that? Not by watching a screen, that’s for sure. We connect. In meditation, in conversations, walking in nature, in love-making (as we ironically call it)… there’s no limit to the ways we can experience Love.
That’s because Love permeates creation. Call it God or life force if you choose (“It” doesn’t care what you call it). “Money can’t buy me love,” the Beatles sang and they were right… because we already have Love. If we’re alive, if our hearts are beating, if we’re breathing, that’s proof that we’re swimming in an oceanic universe of Love. Money can’t make us happy because we’re already happy, if we’re connected.
Fish can’t live without water and we can’t live without Love.