Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Do you know how much they make?

I can sympathize with men.  You can look at your children with pride but you didn't make them the way their mother did.  You can look back on years and years of work proudly but you know longer even know anybody at the office.  What have you really accomplished? What do you really matter?

For some men, it is easy and convenient to fall back on the accounts, the funds, the gifts, endowments, scholarships and mergers.  I am worth umpty-ump billions and you aren't. So, I am great, like my daddy always wanted me to be, and you aren't. A book in the library caught me eye: "Happiness: Lessons from a New Science" by Richard Layard, a British economist.  The point of the book is that life is more than money.

There is a cartoon that begins each chapter and the first one has stuck with me.  A young-ish man is teeing off and his caddy is standing by. The golfer says,"Researchers say that I should be happy now that I am rich but do you know how much researchers make?" I like the idea that our principles and ideas should be tagged with the lifetime earnings or the yearly salary of the person who invented or discovered or promoted them.  That would make it easy to use the tag to accept statements from the big earners or reject the ideas of those at the lower end of the money scale.

Of course, the trouble is that the money tags don't work.  Or rather, sometimes they do but often they don't. The women I have known didn't seem to be stuck on the likely earnings.  Granted, there is good research and recognition worldwide that a man with plenty of money is likely to be of some interest to a woman seeking marriage.  The idea goes back at least to King Midas: get the gold and you get status, respect, power and pleasure.

Sometimes you hear the statement "If you have your health, you have everything."  Again, a valuable thing, good health, but under some circumstances, a person does not have good health.  Everyone older than 70 is quite aware of the fact that health is a good that is limited and fleeting. So, what is the highest good?  Maybe there isn't one. I remember my excursion into Candide, the book by Voltaire written in 1759. Like Pollyanna but years before her, Candide's mentor, Professor Pangloss, vigorously announces and re-announces that this world is the best of all possible worlds.  We come to see, once again, that there are circumstances when one is not happy for the best of reasons and refuses to gloss everything over with a smile and a dance. I guess we have to conclude that there are many good things but no final state or situation that can be utterly relied upon as best.  We have to continue using our eyes and brains.

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