Tuesday, June 14, 2011
For people who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing
This dog reminds me of people I actually know. They are the kind of people that those cultish "Join Us" Edward Jones or just plain stupid "Ask Chuck" ads appeal too. You know who I am talking about- the people who spend their lives obsessing over money, unable to enjoy today because they live in a state of terror over the thought that Tomorrow might not be all wine and roses.
Like this dog, they like having a nest egg, but that bundle of savings brings them no real pleasure- in fact, it keeps them up at night, tossing and turning, worrying that their "portfolio" isn't "working hard enough" to provide "long term financial security" and what TIA-CREF likes to call "guaranteed income" (quick tip: the words "guarantee" and "lie" are synonyms.)
Like this dog, they worship that bundle of savings. They cuddle it, they stroke it, they check it and recheck it and seem certain that if they let it out of their sight for more than a few hours at a time, it will disappear. Someday, someone will explain to me how this is preferable to having no savings at all.
Because sooner or later, real human beings understand that Money can't buy anything that is of any value. As Charles Foster Kane admitted to his financial mentor in the greatest movie ever made, he was always using money in the worst way imaginable- "to buy things." Sooner or later, most of us realize that The Beatles were right when they sang that Money can't buy you love, and the cliche about it not being valid currency when seeking to purchase happiness is also true.
Money can buy Things- Things that provide momentary pleasure and comfort, but ultimately do nothing but gather dust and crumble away. Money can buy some people- I know of at least one or two people who sold themselves cheap, trading the uncertainties of Independence for the mirage of Security. Money can buy stuff that fills rooms but can't take the place of what John Steinbeck called the Pearls of Great Price- the things that don't come with a tag.
Sometimes, money does allow for a great investment. It's almost unbelievable that a dollar and a quarter can put a bagel in a kid's hands and reward the buyer with a smile whose worth cannot be measured in coin. The look on the face of a kid getting an unexpected slice of cake on an otherwise dreary school day- how much is that worth in dirty green paper? But examples like this just demonstrate how pointless and ugly it is to lock money up in a safe, or hoard it in a thousand other ways.
Money will always cost more than it's worth. In this commercial, it costs the dog peace of mind. It brings misery and restlessness and maybe ulcers. The treasure weighing heavily on this dog's mind isn't working for the dog- the dog is suffering for IT.
Aren't enough of us already like this dog?
(I include with this entry a scene from one of my favorite films, "Meet John Doe," because it includes two awesome lines that more of us should really take to heart. One is "I know the world's been shaven by a drunken barber." The other is an explanation of what the Pursuit of Money does to people, starting with "before you know it, you'll have a bank account." Believe me, it's worth the time investment.)