The actress Marlene Dietrich reportedly said that “there is a gigantic difference between earning a great deal of money and being rich.” It’s anybody’s guess what she was thinking when she said that, but the statement strikes one of my nerves. By my lights, some of the people with the most money wallow in poverty. But of course, such judgments depend on one’s concept of rich and poor.
“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” Henry David Thoreau
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” Bob Marley
“It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.” Thomas Jefferson
“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” Seneca
“Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” Benjamin Franklin
Many more quotes by wise people could be added pointing to the manifest fact that material wealth alone seldom, if ever, results in contentment or inner peace. Authenticating that observation is the quest of many of the world’s wealthiest for more and more and more . . . a mantra of the nouveau rich being: more is never enough.
I commend Michael Sandel’s book What Money Can’t Buy in which he discusses things of intrinsic and consummate value in the world . . . things one cannot purchase with any amount of material wealth. True riches, the measure of wealth that really matters, has to do with experiencing meaning, joy, and peace. I posit that this is the appropriate goal for individuals and for the way we organize society.