Why Doesn't Money Make You Happy?

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by Javantea
Feb 4, 2015

Before I get started, if you're a programmer or hacker make sure you've downloaded my Reverse Engineering tool, JavRE and read the tutorial on how to use it.

Before you write a letter accusing me of class warfare and petty bourgeoisie anti-intellectual navel-gazing, read on. The title is misleading. No, I'm not going to make the opposite case either. Let's talk for a moment about happiness and money. A windfall of a small amount can make a poor person unimaginably happy. Gifts that make it easier for you to buy something you need or want are a big deal. A gamer who wins a challenging game becomes elated and euphoric. Some have called it the "epic" emotion. A gamer needs extra money to buy games and so without money they are usually unable to play very many games. For many gamers, their happiness subsides over time playing the same game. This is known as replayability and is very important for MMORPGs, online games, and even single player games. But the epic emotion is just one tiny sliver of happiness.

Happiness is the emotion that accompanies goodness. But does goodness equal happiness? In my opinion, no. I have for years attempted to argue that hedonism is a bankrupt philosophy and that doing something because it makes you happy is not the same as only doing things because they make you happy. Purpose comes not from happiness in my opinion, the reverse is not exactly true either. Purpose is often thought of as an old puritanical value that doesn't fit in with post-modern philosophy of life. But wait, why do we care about post-modernism? Because life matters. It takes almost no effort on the part of a philosopher to come to the conclusion that nihilism is incorrect despite the important lessons it teaches us. But post-modern philosophy goes much further than nihilism. Existentialism is a much more complex philosophy that post-modernism uses to deal with the major questions of life. Its opposition to positivism and rationalism in my opinion makes it unable to explain purpose that is ingrained into our soul, but I can understand how they would come to their conclusions. So how does this fit in with happiness? It is my belief that happiness comes from more than one thing. This makes it elusive. When you chase it, you lose it. When you have it you don't know that you have it, you just are. But that doesn't mean that you have to just be happy with your lot and not strive to make yourself happier. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Strive, knock, ask and don't stop until you look back and say that you were happy. Don't worry that you aren't currently happy, as Winston Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going." What makes this so important is that you don't really know if you're happy now if you are happy. So you have to try to figure out what will make yourself happy and do that. But like I said before, happiness isn't everything.

Let's step back a moment and think about money. First of all, earning money gives a person a unique sense, not always pride and not always greed but something else is there as well. I often bring up the meme of the cat who is quoted saying "This is mah job", the reason for this is the conundrum of working 40 hours per week more or less on a job that someone may classify as meaningless even if you don't is a rather demeaning waste of talent. Even if your job isn't a waste of time, is there something you dream would benefit the world in a bigger way? If not, way to go you. I recently retired from information security, a career that many would suggest is incredibly important because I felt that it was necessary for me to use my talent to do good things. If you're working a job that doesn't pay you well, you know what I mean when I say that every penny matters. Even if you're being paid a hundred thousand dollars a year, you should by golly know that money matters. Why does it matter? Because instead of working 9-5 for the past 10 months, I've been working on my dream because I was frugal the past 4 years (not saving every penny, but skimping on the big things like an automobile, alcohol, and clothing). That's right, if you earn a reasonable wage for 4 years and save a few thousand dollars every month, you don't have to work for a few years. People asked me how much I saved up. I'm not going to type it here because that's incredibly rude but if you see me on the street or you encrypt and sign an e-mail to me, I'll put the answer in my signed and encrypted reply. So the question is why aren't you doing what you love? Is it money-related? When we're young people ask us what we'd do if we had a million dollars. I have joking replied recently that I would set it on fire but I actually wouldn't. Why wouldn't I set a million dollars on fire? Because my friend impressed on me the value of money. With 100 million dollars, he could buy each of his friends a house. He would become one of the most popular people in the world because if you were giving away houses to your friends and had a flip of a hundred stacks, "one comma eight zeros", you would have a lot of friends. How many people could you house for $1 million? Depending on where you live, between zero and a thousand. This whole concept of giving things of value away is known generally as generosity. It's an incredibly powerful virtue and relates to the introduction paragraph, when a poor person receives a windfall, they can be overjoyed. This emotion they are feeling is gratitude. So now that we've properly described the problem of money and friendship, let's talk about the relationship between us poor people and money. We need money to pay for the things we need. While we're at it we buy things that we want. So we are consistently dealing with the problem of having to work to earn money and then paying our rent, our utilities, our groceries, our transportation, our insurance, and our luxuries. The less we earn, the more we have to work and the more we have to scrimp and save. At a certain point we can retire, so we do.

If you haven't gathered why money doesn't make us happy, allow me to state it plainly:

  • Happiness comes from many things.
  • Money satisfies a few requirements but doesn't satisfy half of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
  • Happiness is elusive, thus seeking it by acquiring wealth and consumption is unlikely to randomly cause happiness.
  • If you are happy with money, you don't worry about why money doesn't make you happy. This is known as selection bias.
  • The pursuit of money is a soul-crushing experience which often requires you to demean yourself undermining one of the core emotions of happiness: love of oneself.*
  • The pursuit of money often involves risk where the outcome is determined at least partially by luck and not skill, effort, need, or logic. When you fail, it is necessary to get up and try again. This often undermines the human intellect's desire for meaning, logical outcome, and justice. Remember that money is not just.

* A friend of mine gave me some incredibly good advice when I was in college. I am eternally grateful for his friendship. He said, "You can't love anyone if you can't love yourself." This is not about self-esteem or about egotism, this is about love. Love is characterized by wanting to repeatedly be connected to someone or something.

If you've enjoyed the links (which nearly all have tooltips so you don't actually have to click them unless you want to go to AI3), may I suggest trying to talk to AI3? Here's a good icebreaker:
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If you're too shy to talk with an artificial intelligence, AI3 has a completely non-talk interface that I very much recommend people use. Try double-clicking any word on this page. If you like AI3, send me an e-mail asking for how to incorporate some advanced features of AI3 into your own projects.

Javantea out.

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