We live in a society where we exchange labor for goods and services via an exchange medium called money. The more money we have, the more we can buy. We are told repeatedly that “more is better”, so we pursue money in order to buy more and better clothing, food, vacations, electronics, automobiles, and houses. Since money is a limited commodity, one person can gain only when another loses. Thus, the whole system is based on scarcity, competition, and fear. We worry that we won’t have enough money to buy what we want/need, so we toil, steal, gamble, and manipulate in order to get it.
The majority of what money can buy brings us only temporary enjoyment. A meal satiates us for a few hours. We eventually wear out or grow tired of clothing. Even a house doesn’t bring ever‑present enjoyment since we’re not home all the time. Thus, via selfing, we give up continuous well-being in order to gain temporary enjoyments. We might enjoy some nice vacations, fine food, and watching a big-screen television, but look at all the suffering we endure in between. A lifestyle consisting of less material wealth but also no selfing produces a constant state of well-being, so that “peak” experiences are not necessary. Think about it: if you could be peaceful and content all the time, whether you were taking a walk or at the grocery store or with friends or sitting in your living room, would you feel the need for a big house or a whirlwind vacation?
Because money is something that can be exchanged for almost anything, we might believe that money can “buy” us out of existential pain. This creates the mindset that more money equals less pain, and ipso facto, less money equals more pain. When we lose money, the belief that we are now less able to afford to purchase relief from existential pain causes immediate emotional pain, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Meanwhile the belief we react to is false, because nothing that money can buy – possessions, vacations, gourmet meals, a new car – can solve the problem of living via the false self. In fact, the more stuff we buy, the more we reinforce the false self. Many people get caught up in an endless cycle of buying things, feeling temporary relief, followed by pain, followed by more shopping.
Whether we work, gamble, or steal in order to acquire money, it is a failed system because even when we gain, we get at best temporary relief. Our existential problems do not disappear after we get a bonus or win a blackjack hand. If they did, we could then live happily ever after. Instead, we keep working, stealing, or gambling in order to get more money, because the money we got wasn’t “enough”.
Even lottery winners are usually no happier once the initial thrill of winning and shopping is over. Not only that, eventually most lottery winners go broke.
The bottom line: neither money nor the things it can buy will solve any existential problem.