A Lesson In Happierness

A Lesson In Happierness

I have long held to a very simple axiom of life; Money Buys Happierness. Not happiness, happierness.

This offends people greatly, which is how I know it’s completely true and accurate, especially in today’s world of income inequality, class warfare, and an all-out war on success and prosperity.

By all accounts the entire debate originates in the 18th century thanks to French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who asserted at the time a version of what later came to be commonly said as “money can’t buy happiness.” Keep in mind that then, as now, anyone called a “philosopher,” was and remains simply a glorified member of the community of the unemployed.

Much to the chagrin of those who claim to eschew the pursuit of material things, multiple modern day studies have shown that money, does in fact, buy actual happiness.



Personally, I don’t need any studies, surveys, or charts to prove that money absolutely makes people happier. It cannot, as Rousseau asserted, buy you true happiness, or genuine interpersonal relationships and the like, but it absolutely opens the door to those things if you’re simply willing to step through.

From the simple to the stupid and the obvious to the extravagant, money is the entre to a life better lived. Many people like to point out the experiences money brings you, but I have always thought that was a poor arguing point. After all, first class, limousines, private jets, VIP access and everything that comes with money only goes so far if you don’t have genuine affection and connection with people to enjoy it with. Money attracts all sorts of people to you, but most of them are attracted to the money, not you.

So, no…money and all of the things and experiences it can buy you is not what I would argue, despite the endless awesomeness it can bring. Can you find a great bottle of wine for $20? Absolutely…but the five greatest wines I have ever drunk, all of which I remember vividly, cost well over $100. Can you enjoy a nice dinner with someone you love for $50? Of course; but the ones I remember most are the ones that cost well more than ten times that amount. A baseball game is fun; a playoff game in the front row or a luxury suite is a memorable, life changing experience. Golf at your local Country Club with your best friend is a blast; taking that same best friend to Pebble Beach is what breathes life into your very soul. Getting away for a weekend to the Motel 6 in Bakersfield is still a vacation, but renting a mansion on the coast and spending your days staring at the Pacific Ocean is mind altering. Renting a convertible in Maui is a once-in-a-lifetime dream for some. For the rare few of us, coming home to one of the greatest sports cars ever manufactured sitting in our garage waiting for us is what we call every single day on Earth.

Yet none of these excesses is why I argue for money, even though I have lived them all and believe mightily in them and so many other amazing moments money has brought me. In my experience, the true power of money shines through when human suffering is at its’ peak; for the lack of money truly adds misery, while the presence of it makes it easier to focus on what you’re supposed to be feeling in the moment. Life, as so many dime-store psychologists will tell you, is, in fact, all about being “present.” So many people miss out on so much because they are so worried or concerned about yesterday or tomorrow that they are incapable of living today. Money changes that, especially when despair is palpable.

Last week, my German Shepherd,”Shep,” was dying. Anyone would have been perfectly reasonable to assume that he was simply old. After all, he’s almost 11 and that puts him right at the age most dogs of that breed pass away. Just visiting the vet and giving him a once-over is a $300 idea, so a person consumed and concerned with money would easily dismiss that path and simply “let nature take its course.” Those who judge a person in such a situation should remember that life in the theoretical is easy, life in reality, is very, very hard. It’s easy for animal lovers like me to preach and scream about caring for your pets, it’s harder for a human trying their best who can’t pay their rent this month to make the decision that an 11 year old dog needs to see a vet, when the only sign is that he’s more tired than usual.

Since money is not a concern for me, Shep went to the vet, where his doctor of almost 10 years determined that he didn’t look like an aging dog, he looked like a dog in need of medical attention; and if he got it, he’d be fine. $600 later, she recommended another $750 worth of procedures.

The phone call was basically one that said “every test we run makes us think he has a giant mass on his spleen. We won’t know without an ultrasound and since it’s Friday night, it’s an emergency fee and you’re looking at another $750.” So here we are, having already spent $600 on a dog that may have 3 more years to live if all goes well, being told that they’d like to run a test that costs more than most peoples’ car payments just so we can determine how bad his cancer is. For a dog who’s 11. I’d excuse anyone who said at that point “we’ll just let nature take its’ course.” After all, spending that kind of money to be told your dog now needs to be put to sleep seems a little silly if your power and/or cable bill are already in doubt.

Since money is not a concern for me, and I’ve learned that Winston Churchill was correct to assert that you never, never, never give up, we ran the test.

For an hour last Friday, I laid with Shep, believing I was saying goodbye, but never once worrying about money. It was a moment of human suffering and great, deep, personal pain. But ask yourself this; who was happier in that moment…me, or the person who couldn’t even afford the initial vet visit? Me, or the person who ordered the test knowing that it would max out their credit card and they had no idea how it would ever get paid off? I wasn’t happy, but I was far happier.
The ultrasound showed that the “mass,” wasn’t cancer at all; it was his spleen twisted and enflamed, causing him great discomfort but far from a death sentence. All we had to do was spend another $4000 to remove the spleen and he’d be fine.

$4000 on a dog far closer to death than birth is a bridge too far for most people. Even the most ardent animal lover would be excused for making this a cold hearted financial calculus. After all, you can buy a brand new pure bred Shepherd for less than half that amount and get 12 years out of him, as opposed to whatever is left of this aging mutt who, after all, may not even survive the surgery at his age.

Since money is not a concern for me, Shep had the surgery. One week later, I write this on a Saturday morning at 1:30 because I was awakened by the most beautiful sound on earth; my dog Shep barking at a potential threat. We neutralized the threat together (that squirrel will think twice before encroaching the perimeter of our property again) and now Shep lays at my feet as I type away. Who’s happier; the guy sleeping peacefully who will wake up in a few hours to no dog at all because he couldn’t afford the surgery, or me; a man awake in the middle of the night with his best furry friend? No contest, I win, thanks to money.

My closest friends and family have observed the last many years of my life as I’ve meandered my way through lawsuits, contract negotiations, a divorce, two surgeries, near death experiences of multiple people close to me, and a series of other events that would break most people. It’s nice to hear them praise me for my grace and strength in navigating towards a positive outcome in every single scenario and to credit my character as the secret ingredient to not sucking on the muzzle of a Beretta. In the end, we’ll never know the truth, but I will never forsake the role that money has played through all of those challenges. At every turn that seemed most bleak, every mountain that seemed too high to climb, my ability to say “do it, buy it, make it happen,” turned the moment in my favor. Money buys happierness; just ask Shep, who wouldn’t be alive right now without it.

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