Saturday, November 24, 2007
"Affluenza" - Medical Notes
Have you heard all the hype about the latest disease so rampant in our nation? So aptly named ‘affluenza’? This is a disease that attacks individuals that believe that more money equals greater happiness.
To explain further, when the goal in life becomes a focused and fanatical effort to make more money, move to a bigger house, drive a newer car, get more stuff, that is an affluenza infection. And the ongoing symptoms are people work more hours, spend less time with families, and wake up each morning more disenchanted than the day before. And yes, the malady is aptly named and the symptoms easily understood. The outcome is dire. If left untreated, it results in failed relationships and a barren and meaningless existence without the comfort of awe and appreciation for nature and the beauty of living.
And so books are poring out of bookstores like porridge out of a magic pot to stem the tide of the disease. There are tapes, and books, and television shows, and ads for all the equipment needed to cure this newly defined ailment.
The cures come in the form of hints and helps for scaling back. Moving to a smaller house, riding a bike, cooking from scratch, and living with less. And I had to think, “this is good. It goes hand in hand with environmental protection efforts.” But at the same time, I’m having a bit of a problem with the disease experts and their lists of cures.
The infection comes with a misunderstanding that money brings happiness. But when the bottom line after all the scaling back is the remark that Hub and I heard after watching a show on Affluenza on television the other night, something is very wrong with the overall picture.
An individual, who had changed to the simple life by moving to a smaller place, and reducing his income, and finding recreational enjoyment in wandering marshes, rather than paying to see a movie or dinner out, concluded with a comment that erased all that he was trying to do.
You see the disease starts with a misappropriated understanding about wealth and happiness. And the cure is to simplify life and find a new understanding of happiness unrelated to wealth. So, in summing up his new lifestyle, I expected his reflections to be about a newly discovered delight in the beauty of flora and fauna in the marsh or the birds floating overhead. But, no. He said the grandest thing about the lifestyle changes he had made is that when he readies himself for bed and removes his wallet from his trousers, that the amount of money he had there when he woke up, remains the same.
This is where Hub and I looked at each other and said, “I think this guy missed the whole point.” The one about reverting to a non-monitory focus. The one about awe and enjoyment derived from a simple life.
And so now, I feel a misappropriated understanding of the disease continues with the concept, not so judiciously hidden, that in living miserly one can find such happiness in daily and miserly tabulation of how little money is spent and how much money is saved. That’s when I concluded that in the mix of it all there are many false prophets exploiting false cures.
It seems to me that the poor lost starved souls desperately seeking help are going to have a hard time evading the charlatans. Money is at the root of the disease so when tabulation of money is part of the cure, that cure is a nothing more than an ineffective placebo of no intrinsic remedial value. This is not a disease where immunity can be found through inoculation of the patient with the offending money-think microbes.
What has to be re-cultivated is awe and fervor in the beautiful simplicity of dew sparkling on a rose, a moss-covered rock, a forest blanket of leaves and ongoing reflection and appreciation. The cure is complete when the recovering patient finds all meaning and joy in the affection of friends and family and a spectacular sunset, rather then readying himself for bed by checking the stability of the contents of his wallet.