Friday, May 20, 2005

What money cannot buy

Many Eastern philosophies teach that in order to be a holy person, one has to give up all his material possessions. Just remember Buddha or Gandhi. Even in the Western culture, the late pope had nothing in his name when he passed away. Mother Theresa did not live luxury, quite the opposite.

Here materialism rules. However, having money doesn’t mean one is a great person. Often the contrary is true. Rich people tend to be rather pompous and shallow, even unaware of the real world around them. And very few of them have earned their fortune by working hard.

So, money cannot buy happiness. It cannot buy loving, well balanced and healthy children, either. Yes, it can buy a nice dog, but most of us would choose great kids over oodles of poodles. Wealth can start a career, even in music, but it cannot buy talent, which at some point becomes a necessity. Publicity can be bought, but if an instrumentalist plays like a student, no amount of money can fix that.

Intelligence and wisdom cannot be purchased; neither can a clear conscience. The Roman Catholic Church tried to sell forgiveness at some point, but in a long run it failed. A person with a fat wallet can, no doubt, get better legal help than a poor person. It still cannot, in general, make you innocent or guilty. Exceptions do exist, as justice can be sometimes for sale, unfortunately.

Money can buy expensive hearing aids, but it cannot restore one’s lost natural ability to hear. Even the most extraordinary violin will sound like a flute sooner or later, due to the loss of overtones. A rich visually impaired person cannot enjoy the paintings in a museum, even if he/she has donated the works there.

And money cannot buy a lasting, loving relationship. On the contrary, wealthy people tend to divorce often. I personally knew a Croesus who had had eleven wives. On the other hand, less financially affluent couples can have a wonderful and rewarding relationship, lasting a lifetime.

Rich individuals like to give often the impression of being great philanthropists, and in truth, are very important for this country’s education and arts. But how much more meaningful is a modest donation from someone who gives from his/her heart, knowing that this will have to mean a sacrifice somewhere else. These people are our true heroes.