I have written about the concept of “net worth” before. Why do we assume that it refers to money and material possessions?
The NYTimes article by Paul Sullivan (1/17/14) refers to the concept as “having enough, but hungry for more”. It refers to the issues of cheating to obtain higher grades, of insider trading and fraudulent business practices, of competing against others in a society in which desires override need.
When is enough, enough? Do we know individuals who dreamed of having a million dollars in assets only to find themselves striving for 5 or 10? And when is a billion dollars not enough– when someone has 2 or 3 or 50– isn’t that obvious?
The lesson of King Midas has never been learned. Human nature is the powerful determinant of human behavior. Psychologists who study happiness refer to this as the “hedonic treadmill”. Acquisitions bring temporary satisfaction, but like any addiction, it is short-lived. The rush of dopamine that drives this activity must be re-supplied. As the mania continues there is no time for anything else. Ever try to stop eating potato chips or pistachios? I find myself seeking the next one before finishing the last.
Net worth cannot possibly be about anything else. It is competition among inherently competitive individuals. How will any of us view our own net worth? Could it be something quite simple and ultimately more satisfying? How did we treat other human beings? How did we treat the planet? How did we treat ourselves? As long as society promotes the acquisition of material goods, the accumulation of financial assets as equating to “net worth” we may find ourselves on that same treadmill. Change requires stepping out of the stream that carries us along.
Private time, family time, time to pursue personal development, relaxation, acquiring knowledge for its own sake. Pausing to enjoy the fruits of their labors, nurturing and cherishing personal relations—none of that occurs. The Wolf of Wall Street roars its self-absorbed, abusive and karmically poisonous yelp. The Book of Ecclesiastes spoke of the Bonfire of the Vanities. And at the end of the day, the end of all our days, there is no joy.