Suppose You Were Worth A Million Dollars

If you were me you’d be overjoyed. If you were a billionaire you’d be furious.

That’s what having money does to you.

I’ll amend that statement – that’s what having too much money does to you. Whether it is your own or someone else’s, the stuff will eat into your soul and leave holes. Then other things come and live in those holes, and it is darned hard to get them out.

The trick is having just the right amount. Not too little – so that you are pinched and sad and sick – nor too much so that you are arrogant, anxious, and aggressive. Just enough to eat well, play well, and sleep well. If you get it by working well, so much the better.

If you get it by desperate drudgery, criminality, or vile practices, so much the worse. These will take their toll and eventually the doors to the happier parts of life will close.

I think I have the right amount at present. I can do what I want to do as long as I do not want to do expensive things too often. And I am fortunate in that I honestly don’t want to do expensive things. Though I would like roast beef for dinner.

 

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The Utter Joy Of Cheap

Have you always believed that you deserve the best? That the best is the only thing that you should be offered? That you define yourself by the goods and services that you command? Perhaps you are right…after all, you deserve to be compensated for the constant danger in which you live.

Danger?

Yes, danger. The danger that you will perceive some flaw in your goods and services – or that you will see someone else getting more and better than you. If you must always be first, you fear second.

Well, I have passed through that myself. Perhaps I didn’t articulate the words exactly, but I had them inside me somewhere. And they stopped me from appreciating what I had and what I experienced for a long time. No more.

I’ve discovered the joy of cheap. Realistically looking at my life to come, I see it is going to be shorter than the bit already passed – though I would not welcome too short an interval. I’m now at a point where I may indeed get a lifetime of use out of something and it need not be made of cast iron and hickory wood to do it. Plastic might very well be fine. And I need not spend over the odds either – economy models of things fulfil the same functions.

Best of all, when some new product is touted or some hitherto un-needed need is trumpeted, I can frequently say ” Shoot, I got one of them already. “. I may indeed, and it might even be better than the new designer model with the red stripe on one panel and the fake carbon fibre covering.

I must be the advertiser’s nightmare.

The Sheer Joy Of Repair

I am always dismayed when I see something I own that is breaking down. Whether it is clothing, the car, tools and furniture, or the house itself, there is sense of loss to it all.

And yet – then there is a sometimes a spark of happiness to be found:

a. If the thing that is breaking or broken was something that was never used and was just being kept for the sake of appearances, the loss is a great chance to be free.

b. If life continues as comfortably and calmly as before it tells you that whatever it was was superfluous.

c. If you can get the thing repaired economically, you show frugal common sense.

d. If you can repair it yourself, you are Daniel Boone standing on a mountain top – king of all you survey.

Today it was the covering of my iPad – a magnetic case that protects the thing and shuts it off automatically upon closing. My pad keeps a charge far longer this way. It had split the pressed-leather covering away from the framework. Time to go get a new one from Apple…for $ 79.00…

Or time to get out the Weldbond PVA glue, two bits of foamcore board and some clothes pegs as clamps. Glue, clamp, set in the sun to dry. And an hour later pocket a virtual $ 79.00 toward my holiday trip.

On other days it has been shoes, tables, tents and awnings, worn shop tools, and a myriad of broken, fixable items that have been put back into service. Every day after a repair is a day in which the goods pay you – not the other way around.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is, do.

Professional Networking

Traditional networking is generally practiced off the Grand Banks of Nova Scotia by smelly old men in schooners. It results in codfish.

The other kind of professional networking is practiced in second-rate hotel conference rooms by smelly young men in suits. It generally results in a loss of money and a rising sense of unease.

The action of getting together with your business peers is marketed as ” networking “, because it is more difficult to sell the word ” conspiring “. The purpose of the conference, the stale biscuits, and the burnt coffee is to allow you to gain an ascendancy over your peers…oops, I used the wrong word again…I meant competitors. It is a combination of industrial espionage and sly browbeating, as you ask questions designed to show how smart you are while discovering where their customers are hiding.

If you are good at it you can appear to be a brilliant friend to all – passing out pearls of wisdom while boosting everyone’s self-esteem. Whilst observing who is in financial trouble and making a mental note to deepen this for them until they are bankrupt. It is the sort of thing that J.P. Morgan and John Rockefeller would have loved to do. Think of it in terms of an adult Monopoly game  – if you get in early you can claim the Scotty dog or the battleship for your token.

The wonderful thing about modern life is that you can do this from your computer screen as well. You can be linked-in to like-minded people with just a click. Before you press the button, though, you might give a thought to whether the people you want to lure into your crab-hole are bigger crabs than you. If in doubt, give a false name. I use Andrew P. Mellon myself, so that’s taken.

What A Wonderful Lot Of Things…

Socrates was said to have watched the procession of a rich man through the market place with all his goods accompanying him and to have remarked:

” What a lot of things there are that a man can do without . ”

I think he was quite right, but as he was a better philosopher than I, he could manage his acquisitiveness better. In my case I still have desires for some goods and services. These can be got or not, and that can affect my happiness. Soc would possibly frown on this but he isn’t round my place all that often.

I might get his approval regarding riches in another way – I find as I grow older that I can become curious about the possession or use of things but can satisfy that curiosity without actually having the goods – or at least without having them long.

I test cameras out as part of my writing job – also lenses, accessories, lights, etc. This is on a weekly basis as I try to find topics to write about. I’ve had some pretty expensive gear pass through my hands for a week at a time – and have been able to see whether the reality of it matches any part of the advertising hype. There is a responsibility to return it undamaged, of course, and the expectation that I will say something nice – or at least encouraging – about it. I’m relieved that I do not have any obligation to like it or desire it for myself.

And there are many occasions where I do not. I compare it to the equipment I normally use and in many cases find it to be less useful, comfortable, or practical. I can heave a great internal sigh of relief as it goes back onto the storeroom shelf and tick it off my ” desires ” list. Not exactly Socratic practice, but the result is the same.

Sometimes it works the other way, but my purse has the final say and it most often says ” No “.

Note that this is just one division of consumer goods. Other things like clothing, furniture, art, etc. do not even get a look-in. I am warm and dry in clean clothing, inside my own house and that is all I want. I do confess to a small desire for some of the fancier motor cars, but I suspect that if I were to drive them they would not really live up to their price. My Suzuki does.

And as far as the other appurtenances of wealth – gold, jewels, expensive food and drink, exotic travel, entertainment,etc…I am absolutely in line with Socrates.  These items pass my personal radar without registering a blip.

Small confession of sin: I do like book stores. And hobby shops. But in these I restrict my desires to the economic goods and leave the expensive ones for others. And I have just as much fun with what I can afford.

” Once In A Lifetime Opportunity “

Versus ” Once In A Lifetime Experience “.

This is all a load of hooey. The opportunity that is always being offered is to give your money to someone else. This is not once in a lifetime – this sort of thing comes up all the time. All day long people want your money.

The experience is also common – that of being bilked. Whatever the hype promises, the hyper will not deliver, and the hypee will not receive. The best outcome for most once in a lifetime experiences are that you don’t have – or want – to do them ever again…

Example? Having your wisdom teeth out. Getting a mouth ulcer treated with silver nitrate. Visiting Vancouver. Death…See what I mean?

I would suggest an alternative approach for advertising people who want to take home the money that you arrived with. Instead of promising singularity, they should promise the same old thing day after day. And use the same colouration, typeface, and phrasing for it.

Not only is going to be a saving for them in writer’s fees, ink pots, and paper stock, but there is a much better chance that you’ll become so desperate that you’ll throw your wallet at them just to escape. No expectation of satisfaction or a refund there.

Not Covered In Event Of Nuclear War…

I was always puzzled by the clause in standard insurance policies that excluded me from collecting any money from the company if they, I, and everyone around us, had been vapourised by a Soviet hydrogen bomb. You don’t believe me – go look out your policy on anything from a house to a pushbike, and there it’ll be.

Good move on the part of vanished people who cannot pay something that has no value to people who cannot claim it. A triumph of some lawyer’s need to bill someone now… and by the second.

If nuclear war occurred, no-one would be sending bills to insurance companies. The ones who had not died instantly would be occupied with the business of dying slowly and would not have time to post in forms. Because there would be no post boxes. Or time to wait for a reply from other dead people…

I am not decrying general destruction of the species – Lord knows there are days when I long to take H.L. Mencken’s advice to raise the black flag and start slitting throats myself – but the business of making pettifogging monetary rules about it seems to be somewhat stupid.

And there is a clear opening for any insurance company going to make a good profit by promising what others would withhold – by all means promising that if a Russian nuclear weapon detonates down the end of your street, a team of dedicated professionals will come out and talk to you about it. The insurance people could charge handsomely for that promise, and then spend the money on liquor and paid women. NO-ONE would be left to chastise them. It’s money for (horribly radioactive) jam.