Friday, February 10, 2006

When You Finally Have Nothing

I made the acquaintance of a Fort Worth, Texas oil baron at one point in my life. He rented office space in the building where I practiced architecture. It was basically a retirement office. His wife had told him he couldn’t hang around the house all day.

For the purposes of my story his name will be Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones was one of the people in the world blessed with money. His father and grandfather had been oil men and he had carried their oil and gas knowledge, producing properties and considerably deep pockets into his life as well.

I liked Mr. Jones. He was unfailingly polite to me, the young struggling architect anxious to make his claim on the world. On walks that took me past his office door he would call for me to come inside and visit.

Because I had grown up with more or less nothing, his life and attitudes intrigued me. Two things stand out in my mind from those visits.

I once asked him what he thought of poverty. He smiled and said simply “Well, I try very hard not to think of poverty at all.”

On another occasion I asked Mr. Jones what it was like to have accumulated so much that you really never have to worry about things anymore. I got the same ‘isn’t he cute’ smile from Mr. Jones. His answer surprised me. He said you don’t quit worrying. He added, “Once you have accumulated all, and indeed much more than you will ever need, then you worry if and how you might lose it all.”

The great spiritual teachers tell us that wealth should not be our quest.

This is a difficult lesson for all of us.

Can we find our happiness in life once we begin to remove ourselves from the need to have all things?

For me, it is peace of mind that brings happiness. I have also discovered that my peace of mind appears to be tightly bound with the idea of having enough money that I do not need to worry about it any longer.

If we are to follow the logic of the spiritual teachers then it seems we must purge ourselves of the need to marry peace with plenty.

How then to be at peace while possessing little? That is the large question most of us face.

As for Mr. Jones, it remains in my memory that he was not free from worry even while being wealthy beyond what 99% of us will ever accumulate. Mr. Jones left earth last year, a victim of lung cancer. And, as the Country Western song goes, 'I’ve never seen a hearse with a luggage rack.'

Which way then are we to travel? Which bus makes its way to peace of mind with nothing hitched to its bumper or stored underneath?

When you finally have nothing, will you share it with me?


Robert Shapiro said...

My Friend,
The wisdom you posses and share with us all is truly great wealth. Thank you for sharing your wealth with us all.

Seven said...

You are very kind Robert. I think lessons about finding peace in the absence of plenty is one of the most difficult things I (we) face. Mastering this must be a meaningful step, so I continuue to work.

Jenn said...

Yes - I count on you to be responsible for the deep, meaningful posts while I rail against the injustice of my idiotic choices. :-)

To the point though - what I've learned is that, like plants, we grow to our financial environments. As our incomes grow, so does our spending. If I had known 10 years ago that I'd be making the salary I do now, I would have fainted. Not that it's that large - just relatively so.

It's not so much that money buys happiness. To me, it's that money buys groceries and a roof over my head..two things I need before I can think of happiness.

I still hope and aspire to stop reaching for the next financial rung.

Now that my daughter is potty-trained and out of diapers...I'm closer than I thought. :-)

Seven said...

Raising kids adds a whole new texture to the discussion doesn't it? With all of the pressures to give to yours what the other kids 'have'......I remember it so well.
Trying to give them values while we give them 'things' is a mighty task unto itself!

a fish on a bycicle said...

You are more that welcome to half of my nothing Rick, just tell me where to send it.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I don't think there IS such a bus, is there??? ;)

If you find it, send it my way...I'll climb aboard! :)

Seven said...

Fish on wheels;
Don't send. Next time I am in London I will drop by and get 1/2 of your nothing; though I may continue to negotiate for a better deal.
Hint: It's the bus with all the dudes that are talking to themselves.