How To Live Like a Rich Person
Real wealth never reveals itself. It never shows off. Because it is an attitude, not a bank balance. Anything else is nouveau riche and you do not want to be that. It is pitiful.
The last year took a lot out of a lot of people. That is an understatement. It introduced a kind of mass uncertainty that undermined our collective self-confidence. People whose life seemed secure and whose path forward looked golden, suddenly found themselves drifting.
I’ve always lived with a certain amount of uncertainty, because of a cavalier attitude towards materialism. I rode the ups and downs and learned from them. It wasn’t always the most responsible thing to do but I chalked it up to my nature.
What does this have to do with riches? To put it bluntly they and I did not meet often. And I was fine with that. You know the great realization of the Buddha? These Four Noble Truths showed him a path to a better life, the ultimate riches:
- This life is suffering
- Suffering is caused by desire
- You can resolve desire
- There is a path to ending suffering
I am paraphrasing, but these cover the gist of his realization. We don’t have to suffer.
The materialistic addiction
Covid brought a lot of things to a screeching halt. We had been careening down a steep path to a culture with no depth, a culture that rewarded bad behavior, and measured achievement by material wealth, regardless of how it was acquired.
A whole generation made a goal of getting rich quick, of bypassing the hard stuff and going straight to that Lambo dream. To me this always looked like a massive bubble and the pandemic blew that thing to pieces. For most of us.
Those who are financially rich (and this piece is not about financial wealth) started actively separating themselves from the rest of us. I’ve watched close friends do this. Get paranoid, build isolated castle communities, and raise the drawbridges. They don’t see it but this behavior is sad and extremely limiting.
I had friends whose idea of entertainment was going shopping. Whose closets and homes were full of unused things. This materialistic addiction has always been an American thing and we can watch it spread across the planet. But since we entered this era of uncertainty I’m seeing the beginning of change.
The toilet paper shift
Remember the hoarding last March? In hindsight it looks like irrational panic, because it was. And I’m guessing there are a number of people with endless supplies of TP who are embarrassed about this. They sought reassurance in having something material to comfort them, but quickly found this offered no protection from a viral sickness, unemployment, or the social loss of their job site.
My writing tells me something about the lessons learned. I see a great interest in personal development. Not career development, 360 degree development. Growth in all areas of being a human being on a planet full of other human beings. It seems incredibly important.
We may have broken a little of the materialistic obsession, at least for now and among some of us. The crazy partying going on in Florida as I write this shows the flip side of this. To me those scenes in the streets of Miami and beaches anywhere warm, look like ‘end of days’ behavior. Those folks have given up on responsibility and reason.
But, as the amazing response to the pandemic, including rapid vaccine development, has shown us, the majority of us did not give up. We can look back on that toilet paper run and lump it in with washing groceries as silly, in hindsight. But those things were a way of collectively dealing with uncertainty and we soon got past them.
The true rich life
We are emerging out of 2020 a little pale and dazed. It’s like coming out into the sun after a long period of gray days and nights. It’s dazzling and a little frightening. Did we make it? Are our friends and families ok? What is ahead?
As we answer these questions, and I think everyone, even the super rich, are asking ourselves that, we should start to understand what wealth means. First we are alive. Many are not. We have our health. Many do not. Hopefully we did not experience hunger or lose our homes. Many did. To be a member of that pale and dazed but alive crowd is riches. Incredible riches.
The responsibility of our newfound wealth
There is a chance to rebuild a better society. The barriers to this are prejudice, fear, and irrational hatred of those who are different from us. We all know the sources of these fears. But there are many of us who are not letting those fears own us.
There is an exercise that helps deal with this. It also helps us distribute our riches. Many are doing it. It is called talking to strangers about all of this. We have a unique shared experience right now and this can quickly build connections, even with those we have historically disagreed with.
Simply ask people how they are doing.
This costs nothing. But you can’t get out and do it if you are hiding in your castles or behind a wall of toilet paper. You have to get out into that bright sun and talk to the others who are there.
Do this, then go home and think about those conversations. When I do this, regardless of who I’ve talked to, it makes me smile. And that is a pretty great feeling these days, a rich feeling.