January 23, 2017 – The Truth About Money

“Let’s pass over to the really rich – how often the occassions they look just like the poor! When they travel abroad they must restrict their baggage, and when haste is necessary, they dismiss their entourage. And those who are in the army, how few of their possessions they get to keep…” – Seneca, On Consolation to Helvia, 12, 1.b-2

How often do you look at someone driving an expensive car, wearing a nice suit or sitting in first class and consider them as successful? As much as I try to focus on the intrinsic qualities of a person, I find myself, at times, making judgements based on material representations. Our Western ideals such as owning property and work as a measuring stick of success create a world view where material success is a goal.

Is there something wrong with wanting nice things, or taking pride in achieving occupational success? Absolutely not. Seneca was one of the richest men in Rome, and he struggled to mirror the Stoic life he wrote about. One example is his banishment to Corsica as a punishment for sleeping with Caligula’s sister. It was during this banishment that he wrote On Consolation to Helvia, which were letters to his mother Helvia.

What it must have been like for someone with Seneca’s wealth and political power to receive such a punishment? If we look at the above quote we can understand the reality of what happens to the rich can happen to any of us. Yes, money and power can get you privilege, but these trappings cannot absolve you being treated even like someone who is poor. Also, as rich as one might be there is usually someone with more money who, if crossed, can invoke some degree of justice greater than the lesser rich person can.

The philosopher Albert Camus wrote:

“At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.”

Camus was referring to the existential problem of “why”. All material things and achievements cannot absolve us of our internal problems and questions. Rich or poor, we are all in search of something to value that is lasting.

A Punter, a Pineapple and a Penguin

As I write this I am humming PIL’s Rise:

I could be wrong. I could be right. I could be wrong. I could be wrong, I could be right, I could be black, I could be white, I could be right, I could be wrong, I could be white, I could be black. Your time has come, your second skin. You climb so high and gain so low. Walk through the valley. The written word is a lie.

A catchy tune that seems to linger no matter how badly you might want to forget it. Mind you it is not as venomous as Rebecca Black’s Friday but it none-the-less has that similar staying power. What distorts both of those songs is the person behind them. John Lydon and the aforementioned Black can be seen as, respectfully, offensive and sympathetic. John for his overall persona and Rebecca for how the powers handled her. Neither are absolute claims, just a possible perspective.

Jacksonville finds itself with a character who too can be seen as those two adjectives. And you know full well the fans, media and opponents will remind all those who can hear or read of just where he falls. As soon as the pick was made you could hear millions of minds working to come up with the most entertaining or abusive comment. Others tried their best to frame the pick in the best of possible lights. That in turn further fueled the critics.

It was a wildfire. Or a plague. Or direct meteor hit.

I for one decided to “drink the kool-aid” as soon as I heard of the pick. It is far too easy to criticize. The challenge would be in trying to understand what Gene Smith was thinking. Thanks to the many who felt the need to insult those trying to paint the best possible picture it made me even more committed to this task. Because nothing recharges the batteries more than a pompous ass who holds onto absolute claims. As I was told years ago, if you are not sympathetic to the counter argument do not bother getting into the debate.

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