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Why Simplicity Does Not Make You Happy

Since kindergarten, I have been taught that simplicity is a way of life that will allow us to experience happiness and contentment. My elderly mentors advised me that, even in the struggle to reach my dreams, I should not let my ambitions get over my head – that we should always live within our means while shunning away from obscene extravagance – and if you choose the life of excesses and over-spending, then you are surely on your way to miserable poverty.

grouping-of-mugs
Grouping of Mugs by Andrea Michelbach
(Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I remember one story about a professor who had a coffee session with his former students inside his office. He noticed the way they chose their mugs from the cupboard – they were all after the ones with fancy designs and colors; those who were last in line were left to pick the mugs with little or no adornments at all. When all of them were drinking already, he called their attention to point out how their mugs were so different from each other, and yet they were all sipping the same coffee. He went on further to say that life, in general, has the same principle  – most people run after the fancy kind of things – fancy clothes, fancy cars, fancy houses, fancy et cetera. Yet, those fancy things are just like empty mugs without the “coffee.” Satisfaction will come from drinking the coffee itself – the mugs are just the containers. We all aspire for the same happiness, security, and contentment.

There is nothing wrong with getting rich. In fact, it is a noble goal to pursue especially if you are doing it for your loved ones and you have the desire to make this world a better place to live in. However, there is a demarcation between living a rich life and living the life of excesses. Having a fat bank account does not mean you should be ostentatious with it.

However, modern life with its competitive and “show off” culture has pushed simplicity out of the limelight. Happiness and stability are presumed to be the products of flaunty lifestyles – never mind spending and going broke in the near future, as long as you show to your friends that you are not left behind in the race of pretentious success.

Therefore, simplicity is not going to make you happy if...

You Equate It with Mediocrity


You think life sucks because you live simply? Maybe it indeed sucks, but mainly because you assume you are living a simple life when in reality your desire is to be more exuberant than what you see from your friends in your social media feed every day. You want to exceed their travel exploits and the material goods they show-off on their waterfall. For you, not doing so is mediocre. You have equated simplicity with mediocrity.

There is a sarcastic yet practical and wise advice about simplicity and extravagance…

The rich spend like they are poor while the poor spend like they are rich.

I guess this summarizes why the rich gets richer and why the poor gets poorer. Read this out aloud: Working hard, working smart, and investing properly are not enough to make you rich; you should also save more of  your money while spending a few with prudent caution.

You Compare Yourself with Others


One sure ingredient to unhappiness is to set your standard of success based on what others possess. Whatever self-help literature you read and motivational talk you listen to about simplicity, they are not going to have an effect on you, if you always compare your successes to those of others. Being thankful for your own achievements is a misnomer to you until you own the things that other people have.

allegory-of-vanity
Allegory of Vanity by Antonio de Pereda [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You will always feel uneasy if your goals are always attuned to getting ahead of people rather than setting your goals on how to best provide for yourself and your loved ones. The thing is, work and career becomes satisfying only when you do it for those whom you care about and not merely to prove you are better or more talented than other people.

Simplicity is only effective in making your life happy and contented only if your soul is void of envy and vanity. Yet, it takes a heartfelt decision to empty yourself of such emotions. Simple living allows men and women to enjoy the simplest of things. In so doing, you learn to appreciate the little blessings that come your way, which will eventually lead you to real happiness.
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When Does the Love of Money Become the Root of Evil?

The tool is just as good (or evil) as its user. If you have been keeping a close touch of the articles here in Scroll Down and Read, you may have probably noticed how this concept is mentioned a couple of times or so. What tool or thing is this statement more applicable than the ever useful yet most coveted by any human being living in the civilized world – money.

Cash, income, salary, profit, treasure, wealth, or whatever you want to call it, no tyrant or peasant can say he or she does not experience a longing to touch it and own it. Since time immemorial, money has been the cause of many conflicts; yet it is also money that made a difference to millions of lives through charities funded by the humble donations of commoners and lofty contributions of wealthy folks.

deadly-sin-avarice-peter-brueghel
The Deadly Sin of Avarice By Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) - Public Domain


Sadly, sages from both ancient and modern times have classified money, or the pursuit of it, as something immoral. Jesus Himself and His apostle Paul, issued strong statements against the evils of being engrossed with money. Over the centuries, the idea of earning money has been stained. Albeit looked upon with admiration, it is not rare that most commoners would smear at people who have amassed great wealth yet congratulate them with a treacherous disdain. Such an act may be coming from human nature’s propensity for envy. I would, however, opine that it is also heightened by our idea that money has been debased by the spit of narcissistic evil.

Yet, it will be hypocritical and unfair if we just mark any person who labors to earn some decent amount of money, fit for a days wage, as evil. Even this website earns some profit too, you know. Or do you see money as evil only if it is amassed in great numbers?

Here is the thing for you, dear Reader: Whether such money is accumulated in great sums or in bits and pieces, it is the intention and purpose of the earner that will determine if money is of good or of evil. How the money will be used will further signify how evil or good it will be.

So when does the pursuit of money indeed become the root of all evil?

1. When it is coupled with vainglory


They say that greed or avarice is a dangerous trait, as it is the Deadly Sin that is particularly associated with the love of money. Yet, I believe there is something much deadlier than greed, and in fact, avarice is called as such because of it – it is vainglory.

When you are in love with yourself and you are elated with applause and flattery, yet you get offended with the slightest hint that someone is better than you, then you are in danger of the sweet but intoxicating venom of vainglory.

Now, imagine getting tons of money, and then you use it to show the world how great an achiever you are. You would dress yourself with all the finest garments available, so all the people can see how you are better than all of them. But wait! You still do not have enough money. So what to do now? You would have to get to the top so you can take all the glory. Never mind if you step on people; you can utilize them, anyway, as mere tools to your Elysian goal. You feel you deserve all the honor, and those people you would step on probably deserve it too.

You see how ignominious the scenario can be if money is pursued and acquired with the heart and mind full of vainglory?

2. When it is fueled by sinister envy


No, I do not mean jealousy because, in reality, jealousy means something else. What makes the world go round is humanity’s appetite for competition. Why do games and sports exists? Is it for mere entertainment or do you get entertained because you win while someone else loses? What motivates you to excel? Don’t you feel a sense of satisfaction when you are affirmed that you are better than other people?

I believe it is alright to be inspired and get motivated by the excellence of another person and by making such admiration as a goal for you to reach. What makes envy sinister is when you desire the lost and fall of those people you are envious of. You want them to experience sorrow and failure, so you yourself can get ahead of them. It does not mind you if you see them get hurt as long as you prove you are greater than all of them.

When envy is used as a catalyst to earn and spend money, then you are in for a trap – a trap that will encapsulate you in the quagmire of misery. Surely, it is not new to you if I say that there are rich men and women who died alone and miserable.

3. When it is sceptered by vengeance


Anger is the emotion that, when not subdued, can lead you to say and do things you will be remorseful of afterward. Now what if you think you have subdued your anger, but in reality you just buried it deep inside. Or maybe you really do not want to subdue it in the first place; you are just holding it of for a future time when you can finally have your vengeance.

The desire to hurt a person because you feel it can satisfy you and can quench your anger – that is vengeance. Mind you, there are people who are pursuing the riches of this world just because they are angry at someone. They think that, by becoming rich themselves, they can use their money to hurt the object of their anger.

My question to them is this. What happens if they do hurt the person they are angry at? Will their hate subside or will it just transfer to another object or person?

4. If you lack compassion for people


You want to be rich and you just do not care whether you will be stepping on people or not. What matters is you get to that dream of yours by hook or by crook. Let say you do get to achieve what you want. Would you start caring for people now? I sure hope you would, because if you would not, then you go against the norm – even the rich men and women of past and present have charities and advocacies they support.

The thing is, if hurting people does not concern you on your way to wealth and fame, then I would wonder how dangerous you would be when you do become rich and famous.

Lastly…


Money is not evil. It is the intention of the man or woman wielding or desiring it that can and will result into an evil deed. Our history books are not lacking of stories in which real people were able to achieve wealth through decent means. Some of them are still living, while some have already departed. Yet, they have used (or are still using) their wealth to make this world a better place to live in.
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