Linda Downing

Wealth is no source of real joy

A survey by the Luxury Institute reveals that pentamillionaires, those with a net worth of $5 million or more, are jaded. Four out of five have lost the joy of pricey designer splurges. Before we utter, "poor things," let us consider that self-indulgence is not limited to the rich. Its results are echoed by a famous song: "I Can't Get No Satisfaction."
Joan Tepperman, deceased wife of a wealthy man, accused selfishness of "consuming happiness without producing any." When satisfaction cannot be bought, many are stymied. As Luxury's findings illustrate, even the super-wealthy tire of their designer shoes, purses and jewelry. It all becomes so yesterday.
Seeking a cure for malaise, a third of the pentamillionaires propose more travel. Another 20 percent will do more eating out. They view this as contributing to the economy, building memories and helping them experience "real" life. The super-pampered do not comprehend that travel and eating out are not a cut-back but at the top of the dreams of many of us. If dreams became reality, how long would it take for them to become just more stuff?
Gallup polls indicate that 7 out of 10 Americans believe we are greatly divided over core values. A recent synthesis of national polls' results produced a list of "what 9 out of 10 Americans agree on." One of those was that we "admire those who get rich by working hard."
Even the rich who qualify for that admiration do not find it enough. We all desire to be esteemed; but, like sugar, it sets up an insatiable craving. At last weekend's Miss USA contest,
Nick Jonas, the young, popular co-host, introduced Donald Trump as "one of the most important" people involved with the production. "The Donald" took the stage, muttering "one of the most important?" as if joking, but Jonas' hosting days may be over.
Those who only recognize yearnings of their bodies and minds, neglecting or even denying their spirits, sooner or later lose the zest of life. Nicole Krauss, writing for the June Conde Nast Traveler, tells of taking time out for the art of doing nothing, for really seeing "any timeless feature of nature which offers us a view onto eternity." If, as Krauss concludes, freedom of mind eludes us, she is suggesting we must seek freedom of spirit first.
Our world is a loud place, dulling our ability to hear what is important. The Associated Press reports that baby boomers are agitated by too much noise and want quieter products. There is even a Noise Abatement Society in Brighton, England, placing their "Quiet Mark" seal of approval on appliances and tools. Finding our own quiet mark, whether we are rich, middle-class, or poor, helps separate the noise from the music of life.
Not having enough money for the necessities of living is bad, but having an excess, as the Luxury Institute demonstrates, is no guarantee of fulfillment. The rich, and even not-so-rich, have the means to help others. Without proper motive, however, even altruism fails to satisfy what many yearn for when spending money.
The popular "Love Chapter" of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, lists human gifts and good deeds but warns they "profit us nothing" without love. Past the things love does is its source: "God is love" (1 John 4:8). "Can't get no satisfaction?" Find - don't try to buy - God.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at