It's amazing how the human mind can contain so many conflicting ideas at once and yet still be able to function as a whole. Ethical and moral ideals are constantly battling one another and shifting from one plane to the next. Computers could never keep up with the complexities that our right and left hemispheres are capable of.
The Mind's Material
A few nights ago, I stopped amidst the outpour of my regularly occurring thoughts to analyze my mental process when it comes to the topic of money. I realized that most days I go about my daily routine on auto-pilot, with the idea of money filed away somewhere in the back of my mind. I don't think much of it—Money is here and there. Rent was paid. My cell phone bill is due next week. I'm extra hungry today, so I'm buying lunch early. No big deal. There may be fleeting thoughts of career goals, my financial future or my next paycheck, but most days there are no continuous, trumping thoughts about the importance of money in my life.
However, there are those occasional slots of time, while driving late at night or chatting with friends, where the topic of money strangely shifts to the forefront of my thoughts. The thoughts are usually deep, philosophical conundrums about how important money is in my life and it's usually a brief conversation with myself.
The Entrepreneur vs. the Spiritual Guru
In a nutshell, the conversation goes something like this:
“Man, I'm not getting any younger. I want to see the world, I want to live in luxury and do all the things I've always wanted to do. If only I had millions of dollars, I could do this. I could retire, discover my hobbies and focus on the things I really love.”
Almost immediately, an additional character—the devil's advocate in the form of some kind of wise spiritual guru—enters my mind and interrupts the previous thought with a calm smile and slow pretentious head shake:
“That is not the path. Money is only a distraction to the true essence of life and the important things. . . family, integrity, friends, creativity, culture, wisdom. Those are real. Cultivate those things.”
Living for Joy
Does this dialogue sound at all familiar? If so, I'd like to unofficially presume, without any sources, that you are like 99 percent of people in this country—stuck between the romantic notion of a life of excess and simple, practical living. Progressive pastor and writer Ed Young describes his book "Outrageous and Contagious Joy”:
“Most of us feel like we're missing something. We think that we could have a more exciting, rewarding life. We think that if we had the big bank account, the large house, the luxury car, the successful career, the buff body and youthful good looks, our lives would be just perfect. So we set out in pursuit of our dreams, working hard, living large—and we may even acquire some or all of these things. And then what? We're still not happy. So we move on to the next pursuit, still searching for happiness.”
There is no denying that Young is correct in that the pursuit of materialism as a means to an end is an empty search. As we've all heard time and time again, money is only temporary and cannot buy happiness. However, the pastor's next quote brings up a very sobering point:
“God wants more for us. Happiness is just a cheap imitation. God wants something so much greater than the fleeting and shallow feelings of happiness based on current circumstances; something beyond our imagination; something that is deeper, lasting, and real. He wants us to have absolute joy.”
Ed Young, a figurehead representing family and community, is not saying that we should not strive for material success, but rather we should strive for more. In essence, there should be some kind of balance between the pursuit of materialism and spiritual fulfillment in order to find true happiness. We should not be ashamed of money and material success, but we should not be absorbed in it either. By balancing physical, spiritual, emotional and financial health, we can achieve lasting joy and peace.