What is your 'net worth'? It is a term that has been casually bandied about over the past few decades and years to describe how wealthy an individual is determined to be.
In very basic financial terms it is the difference between the total value of all money,bonds, stocks, real estate, furnishings, collectibles, retirement accounts etc. minus what you owe on them. Loans, mortgages, car or college debts are deducted from the total and voila!– we have your 'net worth'.
How tragic that such a term as 'net worth' is understood in terms of material goods and money. Many in our culture regard wealthier people as somehow 'better' or more 'valuable'. We often judge others by their financial 'net worth'. The epitome of this attitude was demonstrated by the 'Wall Street' generation in NYC who often flaunted their arrogance and newly minted wealth as proof that they were 'masters of the universe'.
Even sadder. If our society and culture believes this to be so–what happens to us when our 'net worth' suddenly plummets ?
I don't care who you are in our society as of Jan 7, 2009. Your 'net worth' is way down. From rich to poor, your aren't 'worth' as much as you were previously. Factors beyond our personal control contribute greatly to this notion of 'net worth'. And yet we suffer on an individual as well as collective level.
Language is a powerful tool for comcommunicating how we feel to others—and how we feel about oursevles. The term 'worth' denotes something subliminal and dangerous about our personal self-esteem as well as how we feel that others view us. As part of this culture, we may not realize how deeply and dangerously we are affected by this attitude.
This societal paradigm tends to reinforce the perception that wealthy people are 'better' and less materially successful individuals are less so. This attitude, of course, is self-perpetuating, leading the wealthier to regard themselves as such and those who are 'below' them as somehow inferior.
Times of suffering offer opportunities for re-evaluation and perhaps growth. Let's create a metaphysical 'net worth' paradigm. Let's survey how we think, feel and act in our daily lives. Let's take all of our positive activities and thoughts: love, compassion, kindness, charity, smiling at others, signs and demonstrations of affection,truth telling, honesty, courtesy, optimism, consideration for all living beings etc. and subtract out our thoughts of anger, hatred, lying, gossip, desire for revenge, jealousy, greed, sneering and scowling at others, flipping someone the 'bird', joy in the suffering of others, destruction of nature and its creatures etc.
Now we have a metaphysical 'net worth'. Of course as human beings we will have 'something' to subtract from the total. We are here to work on all of these issues. We can improve our metaphysical 'net worth' by both increasing our positive attributes, attitudes and behaviors as well as decreasing the negative ones.
The benefit is manifold: we are soley the determinants of the metaphyiscal 'net worth'. No outside agency can affect us in this mission. We will stop worshipping the 'rich and famous' among us. We will evolve spiritually and ultimately we will be happier and more at peace in this lifetime.
Perhaps in this time of lower 'net worth' we can re-evaluate what is truly important in life. Perhpas we can begin to see ourselves and others for what is much more valuable–our metaphysical 'net worth'.
Am I naive enough to believe that this is possible? Won't we all return to our previous attitudes when this financial crisis is over ? Perhaps–but it doesn't hurt to try