Monday, February 12, 2007

What Did Thoreau Know About Happiness?

"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."
- Henry David Thoreau, American philosopher (1817–1862)

Thoreau was never a rich man. Rich people and those who aspire to be rich believe that any amount of sacrifice of life is worth the investment to gain wealth. That includes their time, their work, their families, their values, their relaxation.

As western society ages, more and more people believe that wealth is the measure of a person, worth any exchange of what Thoreau called life. Not wealth itself, exactly, but what wealth can buy so that the wealthy person can show it off to others and what influence wealth can exercise over others who admire it greatly.

Not everyone in the world subscribes to that way of thinking. As much as Americans want to believe that the people the US calls terrorists only envy the wealth that US citizens have, very few (if any) of them do. They and many of their people consider western obsession with wealth to be a perversion of the purpose of why we are on this planet.

We in the west live our lives to earn enough money to buy the products that advertisers brainwash us into believing that we need so that we can be satisfied and happy.

Look how happy we are. The manufacturers, our politicians and our social leaders tell us that we must be happy, that everyone who does not live in a rich country must be unhappy.

If those important people tell us that we are happy, then we must be happy. After all, we reward them well for telling us the purpose of life. If we pay them so much to tell us what life is all about, then we might as well believe them.

Thoreau was poor, what would he know about happiness?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put it all into perspective.
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