I found a great quote the other day (attributed to Pablo Picasso, but who knows with the internet): “I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.”
What this gets at is the problem of the hedonic treadmill. As our standard of living improves, the story goes, we become less able to experience joy in small pleasures. It’s not just a matter of multi-millionaires no longer getting excited by flying business class. All of us expect functioning toilets, clean water and sandwich bread that doesn’t involve a full day spent milling our own flour and then baking. But at relatively recent points in human history, all of these would have been cause for celebration.
That is what it is; we can be glad we take these things for granted. But in what ways could we try to live as poor men with money? How can one stay excited about little wins?
I don’t know if it’s possible. I have had fun, however, these past few days in my new and more rustic life, with seeing how my kids react to things that are just not part of their experience, and hence are worth celebrating. Sam, my toddler, has wanted to say “night night” to the new car and give it a kiss before going to bed. At bedtime, I talk with Jasper about what things made him happy during the day (which we can then be thankful for). He’s been happy about the flowers and trees for several days in a row. Imagine how awesome life would be if we could always be happy about flowers and trees.
How could you live as a poor man with lots of money?