I just had a long hot shower before bedtime. I rubbed nice lotions on my face and went and stoked the fire before turning it down to low here at my mother’s house where I am staying tonight.
Then I switched on my computer to start writing these thoughts down which were rolling around in my head this evening. Thoughts to do with wealth…
Once I switched my computer on and started this ramble in my free 60 day trial of Microsoft Word I felt very frustrated. It came in a wave and swept pass me without dragging me under – it is not a big deal – just that I don’t know this program so don’t know how to make the view bigger – hence I type away right now with teeny tiny letters marching across the page like ants, barely discernible.
On the tail of these wealthy ponderings mostly I am struck again by how truly fortunate I am to have such worries..
Pirate boys wielding machine guns in Somalia? Wiped out cities in Haiti? A beggar disfigured from Polio on the street in India?
I am intrigued by the mechanisms of our minds which help us quantify unnecessary suffering.. I think in a way it is actually the same function which helps a woman be seduced into the bedroom once more after having been through the pain of childbirth. The ability that lets us fall in love again after our heart has been broken, to get up again in the morning after a loved one has died.
Because. Somehow we must. Hardship comes to us in life – even those of us who are most fortunate – we all have our troubles and the poorest too have their joys.
It’s a clunky, searing and all at once oppressive feeling to be dragged down by despair – and I have been blessed with fairly modest experience of it. This is where my mind has been turning over and trying to nut out this concept of wealth and it obvious realities in the world we live in today.
What is it? What is wealth? I mean I know that much as most would agree that money can’t buy happiness (I am sure Bill Gates still has down days like the rest of us) surely there is an undeniable amount of comfort which can be bought only with money which in turn facilitates happiness.?
And there are all kinds of wealth which have nothing to do with cash. Like the snuggling into this warm bed under my mother’s roof – this is a priceless gift beyond monetary measurement.
I am going to Bali at the beginning of August and have heard from a friend who just came back that there are a lot of beggars there as the economy has really suffered due to lost tourism and such since the Bali bombings. The main place I have encountered real poverty was in India. It is a very confronting thing to know what to do when you are a proportionately poor person in your own culture, yet thrown into the other end of the actual reality of your place in the wealth displacement continuum of planet earth – you realise that you are a millionaire.
And you get to experience it in many ways– like being able to afford a fancy hotel room or a personal taxi driver for the day or a spiffy massage and a facial to boot perhaps.. Eat every meal in a restaurant as a matter of course and pay people to carry your luggage for you.
And then this thought hits you amongst it all – that back in the green back surfing flip side – where you are a poor person – there are millions of millionaires – real ones! There are people who own personal jets and get paid literally a million dollars (perhaps more!) to endorse a pair of sneakers on camera!
It really is a nutty thing.
So..When I go to Bali I get to experience being a millionaire for the first time in a long while. And I am a little nervous of it!
I have the’ right on tourist’ guilt biting at my heels a bit – it is so exciting to think of being able to afford to do some decadent and fun things – yet not only on this particular jaunt but in general in life – I find it really hard to just glaze over and ignore the wealth disparity of the world we live in.
I am not sure that I would be able to easily relax into a massage if I passed by a beggar en-route to the day spa for a pampering session..
And yet – the masseuse appreciates, nay needs! – my custom…
I am reminded of something a friend said when we were travelling in India and we were discussing about more or less this issue of wealth and beggars and she said – “If I gave every beggar ten bucks it wouldn’t make them rich but it would make me poor”.
Hmm. Still not sure what I think about that as a philosophy but perhaps it is a bit closer to the heart of my musings..
At the crux of it, wealth or nationality aside – humans generally want the same things – to be secure and safe, to have food, to have shelter and if we are really lucky, to be loved.
I am pretty sure that these basics don’t much change in proportion to your bank balance (whatever currency it may be in).
And whether you are a beggar on the streets of Kolkata or a high flying investment trader on Wall Street – your integral desires are pretty similar. While one of these two might manifest that as the desire for a fairly undisturbed door-front to sleep in night to night as the other is covetous of an apartment in a ‘better’ part of the city – at their roots the desire is the same – safety and shelter.
If these can be met, attention can be turned to other things, like food and progressively to comforts building up to luxuries as the basic needs are met.
Soooo. I do ramble on a bit – not really answering any questions so much as posing them!
I am writing again now a number of weeks later than I started this missive – right now I sit in the food court in the Domestic Terminal at Sydney airport waiting for my flight this evening to Darwin from whence I fly to Denpasar in Bali tomorrow morning.
These vague inconclusive musings have followed me over the last fortnight at moments.
Like, a couple of days ago, when I was driving into Sydney in my beat up (very) old Toyota Tarago van feeling very chuffy with myself to be so close to my first ever overseas business trip, funded by cash that I created out of thin air through my own enterprise, feeling very rich and successful.. When a dude drove past in his convertible, some model of flashy expensive looking car and flicked me a derisive look, and I was aware of how – to him I look like a very poor person indeed – and no doubt a failure to boot…
That subjective wealth thing again!
Just now I exchanged some Australian dollars for American (need US$25 exactly to buy the visa on arrival) and some Indonesian Rupiah…The American dollars were easy – that funny heavy paper thing they have but straight forward conversion – almost on par right now!
However getting a few hundred bucks Rupiah translated to 2,700 000 Rupiah. Um. Yea. I find getting your currency in the millions kinda hard to get my head around!
I made myself stand, borrow a calculator from the lovely lady who served me and actually look at the Rupiah notes I was given and count them and write it down so I actually got it. When it was in hundred dollar Australian notes I easily understood its value and felt it…
Hand it to me in Indonesian Rupiah and I suddenly have no idea what it is and nearly just shoved it in to my purse thinking “Oh well, she knows what she is doing – I am sure it is right”.
Yet – I would never not count Australian hundred dollar bills!
Funny stuff – money.
Oh well. I really have gone on with no particular conclusion but it is fascinating to feel on the cusp of something – that brief moment in time when you know you are about to do something that will almost certainly be an entirely new experience – but you don’t know in what way yet.
As to looming millionaire-hood (relatively!) it will interesting to see how that pans out too – not least because I had better work out the difference between the 10,000 and 100,000 Rupiah notes at a glance before I go about trying to be a savvy business person with anyone!!
Fingers crossed, eyes open and ear to the ground – exciting times are upon me…