Monday, July 30, 2007

currency of life

I've realized that money means nothing. Coming from a relatively poor chinese family, I've always learned that saving is important, and that reckless spending, even nonreckless spending, is hard to justify. Even up until college I was frugal. There are two distinct monetary moments I remember. When I started regularly paying off credit card bills when living at phi sig, there was a day when I realized my bills were consistently $200-300 or more, and I thought then that I was definitely moving up in society, because my bills were SO high. (now I think my bills are about $1000 per month.) Another time, I had gone to Tanglewood with some friends, when I realized the ticket to get in was $18 at the door. Of course I couldn't back out or make my friends leave, and I wasn't going to sit outside and wait for them to finish the concert. I paid the $20 ever so reluctantly and it literally felt like i was wrenching a body part from my wallet. But after the concert it was almost a release to have paid that money.

Money. I believe that once one has fulfilled a (relatively high) goal of achieving some small measure of wealth, there is no need to make further money - any more is limited by diminishing returns. I think that once your personal value goes beyond a certain number, say $100000, the numbers really don't mean anything anymore. But no one is every really rich if, socially, they are deprived of experiences that human beings really need to thrive. And often, it is the poorer people that actually are wealthy in social capital, because they are freer to experience the world as it should be. But I have no illusions that money isn't everything and that it is possible to be happy without it.

Over a lifetime, one will inevitably go from spending $3 average on a big mac as a kid and thinking "mcdonalds prices are going up, uh oh" to spending an average of $15 per person and thinking that it is a "great deal". In the end it all comes down to dollar signs and symbols that only abstractly represent some sort of wealth. Originally, after the barter system was replaced with a coinage system, money represented tangible assets such as heads of cattle, but now I feel that society has lost the true meaning of the dollar. For the rich or rich wannabe, a tiny cocktail that costs $15 is no surprise. Money has become dispensible. But the wealth that it buys is now invaluable - social capital.

And that's what I really seek. To be rich in social capital makes all other concerns pointless.

No comments: