On their album A Hard Days Night, the Beatles famously sang
I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel all right
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel all right
‘Cause I don’t care too much for money, ’cause money can’t buy me love
And it’s true. For all our hankering for a “ring” from a fella it’s not the diamond we really want, it’s the guy. His whole heart, connection to him, commitment, love.
I want it now!
Yet we’ve all likely heard some version of the almost equally famous Bo Derek joke, “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.”
Sure, we laugh, and maybe even convince ourselves temporarily that money is a huge source of personal happiness. Even though many of us with Christian backgrounds also recognize from the Bible, in the First Epistle to Timothy that, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
So what’s the middle ground?
Nothingness and somethingness
It would be wrong to conclude that if money and its options offer superficial substitutes for authentic happiness that its opposite, poverty, must be true happiness.
This is also false. From widespread lack of education to compounding health issues through poor sanitation and little or no medical care, we know that poverty is not to be idealized as a more noble state of life. The naturally happy peasant is just an illusion.
At the same time, there’ve been ample studies showing that the Beatles were right, that money can’t buy you love or happiness.
People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, according to researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan. Their findings hold true across nations and cultures. “The more we seek satisfactions in material goods, the less we find them there,” Ryan says. “The satisfaction has a short half-life—it’s very fleeting.” Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization.
That’s all well and good but…
Again, yeah, do you need money to get by, to survive, to thrive even? Mostly, yeah.
But is it the end in itself? No, and we all know that. But we don’t always live it.
It’s so easy to get sucked right back in to the nagging sense of disappointment that if just I had this or that or could go here or there then, THEN I would be happy. It would make me so happy!
Happiness is as happiness does
We all have to find our personal happiness within, as the Bible and every major religion and all psychologists and spiritual counselors and all the voices of the past tell us.
I find that in embracing the conservation lifestyle of buy less, use less, be more creative, there’s less of a focus on acquisition and want and more of a focus on people, experiences, and inventiveness. And that brings a ton of happiness!
If you’re struggling to feel engaged with conservation from either the environmental perspective or from trying to grasp what the heck energy has to do with all this, you might try instead going at it from the point of view of your personal happiness.
Ask yourself what makes you happy. Truly, deeply happy in a lasting way and simply…do more of that! Chances are it wont be about going shopping online or off. It wont likely be about having to move to a different house or taking enough exotic trips to keep up with neighbors or getting into the country club.
As energy decline accelerates, and with it, growth stagnates overall, and we shrink away from a century of consumption overshoot we can still have beautiful, fabulous, meaningful lives if we accept the change with grace, operating always from what we know truly makes us happy.
–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List