It is difficult to tell what it takes to be happy. Being poor is definitely not the answer, but rich does not work either. Living fully in the present seems to help, but most everyone seems stuck in the past or hopelessly anxious about the future.– KCW
In our culture, happiness is rare, elusive and highly valued; so it is studied by psychologists, sociologists and even economists. Oh, and you can make a lot of money by writing a book that promises it.
A few weeks ago, I read the results of a study that examined the relationship between wealth and happiness. It is very difficult to be happy in America if you are very poor and can’t provide for your kids. It is equally difficult to be happy in American if you are rich and can give them every-thing. The happiest people in our culture, the study discovered, live on an annual income of around $72,000. It seems this degree of personal income grants a measure of security while offering enough flexibility for a family to make some choices, based on their priorities. (By the way, coincidentally, in retirement that is what Kathy and I live on. We are happy.)
However, as the extreme income gap between the rich and the middle class and the poor widens, far fewer of us attain and maintain that level of security, far fewer us are happy or even reasonably secure, and many more people live with increasing fear and even desperation. The pandemic is widening the gap and escalating the fear.
I don’t have a solution to all of this poverty of happiness, financial insecurity, and excess of fear. No one else does either. (But that won’t stop them from trying to sell it to you. Beware!) And, the crisis of unhappiness, insecurity and fear is going to get much worse. (Which means the happiness merchants are getting busier and busier. Beware, to the 10 th power!)
However, I can tell you (I have been introducing what I am about to tell you throughout this 5 part series entitled, “In Reality, What is Our Story.) and I have told you that there has to be a better way to live and a better story than the one we have been living. So, let’s get right to the point.
In indigenous cultures, throughout history and long before, and even today where native populations have resisted encroachment, destruction and genocide, wealth has an entirely different meaning. Wealth and well-being for homo-sapiens, for nearly 95% of human history, has had nothing to do with consuming, possessing and accumulating; and absolutely nothing todo with taking, stealing, winning, or conquering. Among those whom our culture regards as “insignificants,” and within their communities regarded as “nothing” by “civilized” communities (Who live and write the history of the people and communities that do matter, that being us.) wealth is perceived through entirely different eyes; spiritual eyes. (These spiritual eyes match with exactitude wealth as seen by Jesus as he talked about the most important moral issue in the scriptures; our relationship with money.) In Indigenous cultures, wealth is:
- A sacred relationship with everything. We belong to the land, the creation. The earth takes care of us and we take care of the earth.
- Cradle to grave security for everyone. Everyone in the community is equally secure and shares equally any perils.
- Living among neighbors without fear. The well-being on one is the well-being of all.
- In coping with crisis, you are never alone. We are in this together and we always stand by one another.
- A way of life that has been working well for hundreds of thousands of years. These communities can be conquered but they do not collapse from within because of corruption or greed or the careless destruction of habitat.
What does wealth from this point of view have in common with the life of the Christian Community in the book of Acts? If this question interests you, read the opening 4 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles and give it your thought. Ask yourself, “What kind of wealth am I seeking?” And, “How is this working out for you?”
Is it possible for us to adopt and adapt to a new vision of wealth and create with our lives a new story and a new community of mutual care motivated by Just Love?