Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The value of money

What are the most important goals in Western life? Power, sex and money! This phrase is often cited as summarizing the ultimate goal of the average Westerner living in the 21st century. "Power" means not just the power to dictate how things should be such as "I'd like to have this particular kind of car, this particular kind of food, this particular woman and I want the temperature in my house to be precisely 77.4 degrees" but it also includes the feeling of power and importance that people strive to attain. We crave "recognition"; we want people to know that we around and that we have accomplished something. In fact, most accomplishments in human history would never have been achieved if the individual who achieved it did not expect a "recognition" reward in return. The recognition reward is sometimes expressed only in money, but more often it's a lot more than money. It might be an Oscar, WSOP title, naming of a technology or product after its inventor or simply being famous and knowing that where ever he goes people look up to him and admire him. So basically we're saying that fame and glory are also included in the "power" category.

Then we have food and sex. Food and sex are the two most pleasurable and -incidentally- vital physical functions of human life. We eat and fuck because we love it, we enjoy it tremendously. We also know that these acts are important for survival; but it happens to be that they are also very pleasurable and that's what primarily motivates us to do it.

And lastly, there is money. Money is the key to everything else in life. With money, there is no limit to what one can obtain since virtually anything that exists on this planet is obtainable with the right amount of money. Personally, if someone was was willing to give me 100 thousand dollars, I'd be very happy to hand over to him ALL of my possessions and start over from scratch. I don't think my possessions are worth that much to anyone but I am trying to illustrate how anything can be bought with money even something that seems not to be on sale.

In reality, though, money, unlike the previous two goals, is not an end by itself. If you had all the money in the world but you had an incurable disease and the doctors are saying that you only have one more day to live, all of this money is useless to you because no matter how hard you try you won't be able to do do much with your money in one day and once the day is gone the money is gone too; you can't take it with you to the grave. Or, if you had a billion dollars but you were convicted of a crime and you are about to be incarcerated for the rest of your life without the possibility of parole, what would you with all the money? So we see that money is not by definition happiness. Money facilitates happiness but if it is not utilized properly or if the situation is just not right for the money to be utilized at all, then it is essentially being wasted.

The "real" goals in life or just the first two: Power and sex. Power includes all the desirable emotional and intellectual aspects of life and sex includes all the physical desirable aspects of life. Money is pursued because we all know that the more money we have, the more power and sex we are capable of having. But the word "capable" is crucial here: there is a skill involved in the conversion of money into sex or power. If you don't know how to do it, then you end up wasting the money and your lifelong pursuit has been in vain!

Wealth Inflation - relative value of money

I have $35,00 in cash and bonds. Combined with other liquid assets, let's assume that I am worth $40,000. If I walk down the street under average circumstances and I see a quarter, I might bend down to pick it up but I will not bend down to pick up a dime and I think that most people in my wealth range won't either. How many dimes do I own? 400,000.

According to this scale, it stands to reason that someone who is worth $40,000,000 or more shouldn't bend down to pick up a hundred dollar bill. Now you might say, "well that's stupid, you can get so much with a 100 dollars and all you have to do is just bend down and pick it up, it takes just a second!" but this is NOT a valid argument. Why? Because the value of money is relative. Just like a dollar used to be buy you a lot more in the 1920's than it buys you now, the value of a dollar to the millionaire is less than the value of a dollar to the average person. The millionaire sees a dollar in a different light; to him a 20 dollar bill is just too little to be bothered with. The potential difference that this 20 dollar bill can make in his life is just not big enough for him to warrant an act as simple and easy as bending down and picking it up. This is not my imagination or an exaggeration. If I had $40,000,000 I would not pick up a 20 dollar bill and possibly not even a 100 dollar bill, just like I would surely not pick up a dime in my present economic state.

Another example of wealth inflation can be illustrated by this: A CEO who earns $400,000 goes to the car dealership and is quoted $80,000 for the Mercedes. A city sanitation worker who earns $40,000 goes to the same dealership and is quoted $50,000 for the Mercedes. This is very often the case simply because the car dealership is trying to get the most for the car and they can easily convince the CEO to pay $80,000 but the sanitation worker can just not afford that much. The CEO thinks that he's really earning 360 grand more than the sanitation worker, but he's not!! If we assume that he's paying higher prices for the very same products that the sanitation worker consumes, then his entire "edge" achieved through the hard work that lead to the CEO position and its hefty salary, has now evaporated into this air. Now in real life, it is not quite so. A bigger salary usually translates into excess money. But it does not HAVE to be the case. If you mismanage the money, you get ripped off or you simply do not have the ability to enjoy the excess money properly, then you are not enjoying life any more than the $40,000 sanitation worker!!

It's all in the mind!!! Happiness is not measured by quantities of money. Happiness is a state of mind and although money facilitates such state, poor people who utilize other resources can achieve the same level of happiness (by means of the power and sexual achievements mentioned above) as the wealthy guy and even more! Imagine if someone invented a machine that is attached to the mind and simulates an wealthy extravagant lifestyle. You decide how much you're willing to spend for this experience and accordingly the machine operator will put you on a simulated life program for the rest of your life! No need to undergo the actual risks involved in real life. In "simulife" you think that you're experiencing real life; you can't tell the difference. Wouldn't you agree to undergo this kind of living? There's no reason why you shouldn't since the experience seems exactly as a real life experience. So we see from this that it's all in the mind. We need to program our minds to enjoy life and be happy. If we can program our minds properly, then all the money in the world will not achieve what the right program will.

The right Program for Pleasurable Living

What is the right program?

First off, we must understand what our goals in life really are. Trust me when I tell you that there' s nothing more pleasurable in life than achieving your ultimate goal. The problem is that the ultimate goal is elusive. We don't know what the ultimate goal is. We change careers, we change opinions, we change sexual partners and that is perfectly fine because life is a journey though a long chain of trails and errors. We are not created perfect and we never will be perfect but we must set before ourselves some simple but mountain-fast goals and everything else in life should be viewed as "serving" the one goal.

What is the ultimate goal? After much thought on this topic I have recently come up with "SAP" which stands for Survive Advance Perpetuate. Food serves the survival step. Some accomplishment which augments and advances our survival is the second step. And finally we need to perpetuate ourselves and whatever we have achieved in life; otherwise it has all been in vain. And that's why we need to record or write down our accomplishments for generations to come and we need to reproduce so that the human species continues to exist.

Just like it is pleasurable to eat and fuck and undergo many other common pleasurable experiences which are conducive to SAP, one must likewise understand the more deeper and subtle aspects of SAP. Sometimes, the pleasure is not immediate and the advantage inherent in a given act is not apparent, but if you know that this act is conducive to SAP, then you also know that you are living the life of a millionaire. Remember, all the money the millionaire has is only there to further aid him in the execution of SAP, so the actual execution is even more important and you should "program" your mind to enjoy such an act. Let me repeat: pleasure is in the mind and the mind is programmable. You don't need money to experience the pleasure, you just need to have the right state of mind and you will achieve that by knowing that what you're doing is noble: you are engaged in SAP.

Common, daily acts that form the basis of SAP

Survive - you must engage in activities that are required fro your survival. You need to breath, est, sleep, drive carefully, defend yourself physically against an attack etc.

Advance - the real meaning of advance is to reach the "ultimate goal". However, as stated earlier, we don't know what the ultimate goal is or how to achieve it. But we do know what the intermediate goals are which will eventually lead to the ultimate goal. Just like a driver driving down the road does not need to see the end of the road in order to reach it; he does not even have to know what the end of the road looks like. All he needs to do is see within a hundred feet ahead of him and make it his intermediate goal to reach the point in the road that is a hundred feet ahead of him. If he will continue doing this, he will eventually reach the end of the road and he must have confidence in himself that he will.

The ultimate goal is the achievement of a much more enhanced state of existence and constant change is therefore required in order to one day reach that goal. Think about a simple, small, positive change that you can make in your life.

If you don't speak English well, learn English.
If you are in high school or college, study.
If you are employed, think about ways to move up the ladder to a more important position, which is likely to produce more change (don't worry, it'll probably pay more and be more exciting as well).
If you are overweight or experience some other curable ailment, engage in whatever is necessary to cure the illness.
If you own a business, look for ways to advance the business is a meaningful, productive way. For example, if you're selling within the USA only, try to expand to foreign countries. If you are not carrying certain products, think of ways that you can start carrying those products profitably.
If you are a manufacturer, products MUST be advanced constantly and be on the cutting edge; otherwise you will lose out to the competition. I think that the necessity for "advance" is very obvious in the field.
If you are in a Yeshiva or any other theological educational institution, study your religion well and think of ways to understand the true meaning of your religion.

I, myslef, am only 26 years old but I have had various different goals in the past 20 years:

age 12: study the gemara rashi tosfos well so that I can understand and participate in grown-up conversations on the topic.
age 14: "iyun" cannot be right because it delves too deeply into a given topic without ever to have even touched on various other Talmudical sections. Also, Iyun is too much concerned with flamboyant "pilpul" and does not strive to understand the true meaning of the Talmud. The Bais Mayer revolt has begun.
age 16: the conclusion to the Bais Mayer revolt is the decision to leave the Pilpul of BM to the Pshat and and bulk-learning emphasis of Chebin in Israel.
age 17: Talmud alone is insufficient. I must study Tanach and Mishnayos well because Talmud is based on these preceding religious texts. Also, what is the true meaning of Avodas Hashem? What is the reason for all the mitzvos and aveiros prescribed by the Torah? Why is the jewish religion superior to other religions and practices and how can I prove it?
age 18: Wall comes crumbling down. A new secular world is discovered and I am studying secular material seriously for the first time in my life. I am gobbling up new information ferociously.
age 19: Irreconcilable differences: Ultra-Orthodoxy is primitive and false. There's no logical basis to any of its ideas and practices. It's just a remnant of the dark ages. final decision is made to "rebel" and go to YU and later the Navy.
age 20: My first extra-orthodox occupation as a sailor in the US Navy has failed miserably. I seek to establish a job and career in the civilian world.
age 21: I am pursuing a college career in computer science at Brooklyn College and I am holding on to a night job at Adorama. I am also looking for a girl.
age 23: College hasn't really worked out, but I am focusing on a new job because the abuse taken at the current job is unbearable. I move to IAN and then DDR. Poker career begins.
age 24: I am seeking a college degree through TTI while I am also looking to move out of Brooklyn and possibly get a different job elsewhere. search for a girl continues
age 26: I finally move to Lakewood and I hold on to the DDR job remotely. I am looking to write a poker book and a new flurry of intellectual activity begins in Astronomy. search for a girl continues.

As you can see, at every point in my life thus far there have been some very specific goals as well as general goals (such as having an adequate job and playing poker profitably).

Perpetuate - Whatever change is made, must be perpetuated. This is why we procreate and produce offspring and we record various aspects of life on camera, on film and on paper.