I’ve been told that I should have been a psychologist or maybe a detective or perhaps a lawyer. I am a fan of murder mysteries and true crime. My interest in such things have not so much to do with enjoying the macabre as having a profound curiosity about human nature. People are fascinating to me and I often find myself wondering what leads someone to perform dark deeds. I have friends who are fellow travelers in my hobby of studying the facts in a murder trial or attempting to solve a crime. Among them is my godson who is only a fifth grader. He and his mom listen to podcasts on his way to school and among his favorites is Martinis and Murder. When I visited with him last week he and his mother recommended several movies and television series that I should watch. Among them was Foxcatcher, an Academy Award nominated picture based on the true story of John DuPont, a man from one the wealthiest families in the United States. It was a great film with a fascinating tale and incredible acting particularly from Steve Carell.
I mention this movie not so much to review it or to be a spoiler but to comment on the fact that even those who seemingly have everything are sometimes actually bereft. John DuPont was believed to have well over two hundred million dollars back in the nineteen eighties, an amount that is unimaginable to most of us. He lived on a vast estate, traveled in his own private plane and was virtually able to enjoy his wildest dreams and yet he suffered from a personality disorder that eventually devolved into mental illness. He had been alone and friendless for most of his life and seemed to be a disappointment to his mother. He struggled to find a place for himself in spite of philanthropic efforts designed to bring himself attention. He seemed to be an individual who was unable to connect with others and form healthy and loving relationships. In the end his life was a tragedy.
How often do any of us hear that money can’t buy happiness? Our next thought is that we would surely like to try our hand at proving that having a large bank account may in fact be the golden ticket to satisfaction. I know I’ve daydreamed about such things before. I imagine myself paying for college educations for my grandchildren and those of friends. I insist that I won’t change my lifestyle that much, but will just make a few renovations to my home and take some exotic trips. I plan to give large donations to the University of Houston and don’t exactly blush at the idea of having a building named after me even though I claim that I want my largesse to be anonymous. I protest that I want no attention drawn to my good deeds, and I only desire to possess a fortune so that the people that I know and love will not have to endure the stress of worrying about making a living and such. Of course, once I reflect on such ideas I realize that it is impossible to receive such a large windfall without having it change everything about my life, and I realize that I would never be ready for the attention that would surely come my way.
I suspect that there is something gloriously wonderful about the anonymity of being a regular working stiff that most of the folks who live in River Oaks or other such places never have. They have to constantly worry about people’s motives in befriending them. They are watched so closely that a bad hair day becomes a headline. They are criticized continuously for the things that they do or don’t do. They sometimes have to find ways to isolate themselves just to get away from prying eyes whereas nobody cares how I look when I make a quick run to Walmart or even that I choose to shop there.
I remember how shocked the world was when Jacqueline Kennedy remarried after her beloved husband John was assassinated. She made a curious choice in the person of Aristotle Onassis who was much older than she was and not known for his good looks. He whisked her and her children away to an island, however, which was no doubt precisely what she wanted for her family. He had the means to allow her to live for a time without the pressures that come from being a wealthy and famous celebrity. Hre children were able to grow outside of the limelight. It was a brilliant choice on her part and I suppose that she loved him for giving her this great gift.
After all is said and done we are all just human. It is certainly important to have enough income to have a home stocked with food and the basic necessities. It helps to be able to provide for our children’s educations and everyone enjoys the ability to afford a little fun now and again. Essentially none of us need millions or billions of dollars. What we do require is love and comfort. Abuse and heartache have no economic bounds. We tend to think that having more money will allow us to solve any problems that arise but time and again we are reminded that such is not the case. The darker side of our natures has been known to assert itself all across the financial spectrum. Somehow we find ourselves being more shocked when there is violence in a family of means than when it occurs on the so called other side of the tracks.
Some of the happiest people that I have ever known have had very little. Their wealth lay not in bank accounts, real estate holdings, or possessions but in their relationships. They are the souls who inspire us with their big hearts. What they have to give is compassion. I continually learn of the angels among us who perform good deeds that are astounding. They take the last of their paychecks to quietly purchase a wheelchair for the victim of an accident or to buy groceries for a family in need. They rarely mention their kindnesses. They do not look for gratitude. They teach their children the value of people rather than things. They enjoy the simple pleasures of long conversations with friends or walks on cool spring days. It doesn’t take much at all to make them smile. They love good jokes and laugh from the bottom of their bellies. They may have to pinch pennies to pay for an unexpected repair, but they choose not to worry because somehow they always find a way to get things done.
Our human experience brings us many emotions. We all have moments of suffering. Money if used in the proper way will most certainly eradicate some of our troubles and woes but it is never the panacea. How we feel almost always boils down to how we approach the realities that test us. If we believe that things are the secret to a wonderful life we will probably find disappointment again and again. It is in truly honoring every person that we encounter without ulterior motives or unrealistic expectations that we find the happiness that we seek, and that rarely costs a thing.