Colorfulifesite responds: Is spirituality compatible with wealth accumulation?

My automatic answer would be: NO. Why? because of the simple reason that wealth is expressed in what’s physical and ephemeral, whereas spirituality concerns itself with the intangible and eternal (like a memory, a proverb, or values passed on from generation to generation).

Yet upon deeper pondering, it occurred to me that it might be just the way we choose to understand the question. Let me explain: in what way are we inquiring about the compatibility of spiritual interest with the burden of accumulating wealth?

As a mother, I see both matters as compatible. Accumulating material things would help me raise my family (cat included!) more comfortably. This would give them a feeling of safety, and being loved, as they are well-provided for. And with our basic needs covered, we could “worry” about the next-level needs such as esteem and self-actualization, both of which are strongly connected with spiritual growth. 

This is only me, of course: a career-woman living in a developed country, lucky enough to have a livelihood and a strong social network of support.

What about the woman who’s the exact opposite of me? a younger, single female, living in a poorer country, with no job and no one to rely on? would she have a stronger or equal faith than/as what I have? would she be more spiritually mature than I am? is she holding on to spirituality as her means of consolation, or is she really maximizing her full potential in spiritual development because she’s not distracted with “worldly” and “material” concerns?

SPIRITUAL WEALTH MENTAL WEALTH FINANCIAL WEALTH PHYSICAL WEALTH WORLD PEACE LIVE AND AFFECTION

Image courtesy of: http://love-peace-gratitude.blogspot.com.es/p/spiritual-wealth.html

As a citizen, my stance only became more confounded the day I read the Dalai Lama utter the following statement:

The economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis … as well as the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and [it] cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons, the system appeals to me, and it seems fair. (“Of course the Dalai Lama’s a Marxist”, The Guardian)

because wealth distribution is only feasible after there has been prior accumulation! (Karl Marx actually predicted that capitalism would evolve in a more socialist/communist system and the material wealth that has been accumulated would make a fairer redistribution possible.)

Therefore, to be able to apply the moral principles the Dalai Lama spoke of, it is necessary (but not limited) to have “something” with which to materialize those concepts. For instance, buddhist households must have enough rice to give alms to the monks, if they want to express compassion. And how would they have “enough” rice to share if they hadn’t previously saved and accumulated it? Although this is not the only way compassion can be practiced, it is one very important aspect to consider.

Inspired from the same above-mentioned article about the Dalai Lama, I started to form my final conclusion. It also noted that:

[…] relief of suffering can only come from the realisation that pleasing ourselves doesn’t bring happiness – instead we must try to work skilfully and compassionately with others, as part of interwoven systems of connectivity that bind us together.

I believe that the accord between material abundance and spirituality boils down to the INTENTION of accumulating wealth in the first place.

Individuals who aim to earn a lot of money to fulfill their roles as breadwinners are not only executing their obligation, but they are also practicing generosity, compassion and patience towards others. This undoubtedly cultivates the spirit.

Households who save and invest their money to guarantee a good future for the younger members are exercising generosity and sacrifice, to say the least. This sets an example for other family members and therefore expands the cause of spirituality.

A society that allows the public use and enjoyment of environmental wealth (forest and seas, for example), who redistributes existing richness to the less-privileged are implementing social and economic justice to its citizens. This makes indiviual spirituality flourish, may it be through the soothing effects of being surrounded by nature, or the satisfaction of being assured of one’s survival.

My final answer then is a YES. Accumulating wealth is compatible with spirituality provided that the intention for doing so leads to practicing moral principles and advancing the cause of spirituality.

Advertisements

Hidden-nomics (5): the unlisted, immeasurable, unfathomable value of the environment

Forest_Enchanted

Image courtesy of: https://josemariasison.org

Dear Reader,

The poem I shared was written by Jose María Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (I think it later turned into a song) I hope you would overlook his political inclination and appreciate how beautifully and realistically he depicted the struggle of our natural environment through the forest.

The issue here goes beyond the hidden (read: unmeasured/unmeasurable/subjective) value of the environment. It’s the fact that most of people don’t even take the time to stop and wonder what natural resources mean to their existence.

Without clean air, they would be breathing toxins that would make them sick, rendering them perhaps sterile and sickly in the future.

Rising seas would eventually diminish land area, increase housing prices and affect agriculture, industry and services (imagine how the tourism sector would fare!) among others.

Wide-spread droughts would expand desertification and turn fertile soil into waste territory- useless for human, animal and plant alike.

Are more examples needed?

In Sison’s poem, the forest could have perfectly been substituted by the sea, river, plateau, mountain, meadow, ricefield, and so on. He would’ve talked about water nymphs, trolls and Bigfoot. He would’ve invoked fishermen, woodcutters and farmers as brave warriors protecting their homes against villains. He could’ve even talked about you, defending your own house from shameless vandals who would try to ransack it, empty it, and destroy it, leaving you homeless and bereaved of resources.

So why is it that some people still can’t relate?

The first time I’ve been made aware of the environmental problem was when I was 10. Since then, I haven’t stopped reading about forecasts, as well as materials about immediate and longer-term responses to the detected problems. I remembered being so impressed with what I read that I started then and there to voluntarily clean the beach near where I lived, reduce my fresh water consumption and recycle as much as I could. I would also scold people in my school whenever I saw them throwing trash on the ground. I took everything very seriously.

I remember handing stickers to my classmates and telling them about the things I learned, the dolphins and whales that are becoming endangered, the dodo bird that got extinct because of game hunters… some of my peers believed me, some just considered me a geek. Nevertheless, I know some of them took note and became more aware of their actions towards their surroundings.

23 years have passed since then, more than 2 decades since that first Greenpeace pamphlet I read explaining the locust plague. The same types of campaigns are still being carried out, but the effect is not the same. I ask myself what the problem could be (don’t you?). After all, the information was fact-based; data seemed solid and the campaigners didn’t scrimp in using alarming vocabulary.

Then it dawned to me: the constant bombardment of intense information, based on massive data has lost its effect. Perhaps in the ’70s, that kind of messaging was able to shock passersby. But in this millenia, people just look, read and go on with their lives, appearing to be desensitized.

How to reverse this? Go beyond speaking to the people individually: beat messages of empowerment and directly thank the citizens for their little daily efforts. Make them realize that when many small actions are summed with the rest of what others do, the outcomes become a great, big help to the environment! 

It is of no surprise that people feel a great weight on their shoulders, pressuring them, forcing them to save the sea turtle, the baobab or the elephants- elements that probably seem so far and unfamiliar to them. The fact is that when it comes to discussions on environmental issues, the initial reaction would be enthusiasm, then anger, followed by a common call for action. Afterwards, bewilderment will rise into their eyes when they start to hear about the tons of water they could save a day, the thousands of species disappearing each hour, or the volume of greenhouse gases they could help prevent from being emitted.

So why not, instead of asking them to DO, also thank them for what they’re currently SACRIFICING to contribute to the cause?

We should all gear towards the turning point. We should resist their despair. We should retaliate their common cry, “There’s no way we can help because a million others would be doing the opposite” with, “You’re already doing your best. Congratulations! Thank you! Keep it up! And when you feel ready to do more, go ahead and do it!”.

Let politicans do what they do best: politics. Let lobbyers influence decision-makers that their agenda is far more important than anyone else’s. Let the activists raise their voices in protest. Let the researchers continue their work on just how fast we are nearing to doomsday.

In the meantime, you, me, us, we can simply be more aware of our actions towards the environment. I’m not even talking about the Amazon rainforest or the Arctic. I’m talking about our immediate environment: how do we consume? what do we consume? what do we do with our waste? do we defend our immediate environment when harassed? do we tolerate vandalism?

It really boils down to what lives we want to lead, and what world we would like to leave behind for our children, or our neighbor’s children, if you don’t plan on having your own. The point is, we should start factoring in the environment when making decisions. Even if it just means saving on our monthly water and electric bill.

It couldn’t be too hard. Human nature has a great level of plasticity, in the sense that it is equipped to adjust according to the circumstances. We just have to will it. We just have to want it.

And as usual, dear reader, I will end this one by encouraging you:

Think about it.

 

 

Ina at anak 1 (Mother and Child 1)

1541.jpg
Designed by Freepik

Ang pagiging ina ay ang pinaka-magandang tungkuling ipinagdasal kong magampanan. Sana, sa pamamagitan ng mga sulat sa hanay na ito, ay mailarawan ko ang mga panahon sa pagsasama ng mag-iina na hindi gaanong binabahagi ng karamihan. Wala namang masama doon, takot lamang tayo sa panghuhusga at mararahas na salita ng kapwa natin tao.

Motherhood is the best and most-fulfilling project I have ever sought in my whole life. With this series, I wish to show that side of mother-child relationship that most people prefer not to talk about. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not “instagrammable” and exposes both subjects to judgement and harsh comments.

Ina (Mother):

nanay

Anak (Child)

anak

Colorfulifesite responds: Why do rich people say “Money can’t buy happiness”?

The short answer

Because they spend their money un-wisely. On the wrong things.

The longer answer

People with lots of money, proclaiming that it can’t buy happiness are implying that as of the moment, the things they’ve purchased have not brought them what they were looking for. But before we get to the longer answer, the first question is: Would you recognize happiness if it looked you in the eye?

To be able to find happiness, we must first define what happiness is for us; and be honest in doing so, because the quest for happiness is a lifelong commitment to ourselves (whether we admit it or not). And once defined, we would spend time, money and effort into having that in our lives.

The problem is that we confuse happiness with other concepts imposed by society in general. Social media posts seem to promise us fulfillment by finding the “right” person- and so we spend money on dates, clothes, cosmetics, gifts, and who knows what else? Our peers look happy when they acquire more money, increase their investments and save resources for rainy days. And sometimes, culture dictates that we spend what little we have on “rituals” such as costumes, decorations and gifts, when what we really seek is belongingness.

Colorfulifesite has identified two of the most confounded concepts of happiness:

1. When we believe our happiness depends on others

As children, we observed how adults appear to be happy when faced with acknowledgement. So we incorporated that information in our little minds and from that very moment, we started to automatically pursue it from people that surround us. Now, that is not bad. In fact, recognition is useful to reinforce positive behavior. Yet as we grew older, we started to let ourselves be defined on what others think about us: their approval, acceptance, admiration, criticism, etc… As a result, we don’t think twice in exerting all manners of effort to gain that esteem.

Similarly, notice how some would spend time and money on travelling or eating out, then show pictures of the trip or dishes, just to earn “likes”, “hearts” and comments on social media. This behavior simply feeds something toxic within,  and the more it is nourished, the fatter and hungrier it gets. The by-product is easily confused with happiness, but one day, without noticing, we will end up living for “it” and internally killing ourselves in the process.

2. Confusing the means and the end

Money is a medium of transaction. We use it to purchase goods and services to cover our basic needs and when that is done, we spend the remainder to fulfill our whims.

So the system goes… we try to earn money to buy the things we need and want, and logically, we try to have more to be able to purchse more. However, somewhere in between earning and purchasing, people get caught up in acquiring more and more money, they seem to forget its utility. I would even go as far as dare say that there are those who use their saved money to buy more money (through investments, foreign currency, etc…), and so they end up amassing great sums of it, without any intention of putting it to good (or bad) use.

Money cannot buy absolute happiness, but it can produce a cheer or two

As Chomsky pointed out, the problem with the type of consumerism today is that it isolates people in tiny little islands, making them deprived of human contact. And miserably so, for human’s survival has always depended on being part of a society. This is how our species was able to reproduce and stand the test of time.

Perhaps, if we propose another definition of happiness, people can then seek a different, more genuine but simpler contentment. A type which would not depend on the ever-changing fad, nor on what others might think, rather, a happiness that would be based on associations, human relations,  the potential to show and receive compassion, to give and welcome comfort, to experience love…

Notice how people coming out of theaters, movies, concerts, or even a gym class, seem less detached than those who just came from shopping. If rich people spent their money creating or strengthening human relations, they might have a better chance at finding happiness. Of course this is not a scientific law, it’s a humble expression of frequent observations. But, dear reader, if you have observations of your own, please remember to leave a comment on this article about what you’ve perceived.

 

 

 

 

Four seasons of delight

We met in autumn

amidst falling leaves,

in between caught breaths,

on rain-soaked streets.

When winter came

with its heavy rains,

we braced ourselves

to face the day.

Without any notice,

we were welcoming spring.

It warmed our hearts.

We learned some songs,

we learned to dance.

We got ready for summer…

what a season to remember!

 

Once again,

leaves have fallen.

You learned to stomp

and make them crunch.

You make me

greet any season with glee.

-Karessa Ramos

 

 

“The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.”- Joan Robinson

robinson

Image courtesy of: http://www.eumed.net

A viable interpretation of Robinson’s quote is being able to filter what is BS and what is not BS. So many economists and wannabes would risk making a fool out of themselves just to defend their absurd agenda.

Absurd agenda 1: painting a pretty picture of pitiful politics

1.A

When Duterte was newly elected in the Philippines, there was a lot of frenzy over the very positive movements in the local stock market. Many people, especially his supporters, were ecstatic to hear this news. They didn’t waste any time sharing this all over social media. They really wanted to prove a point- that the change would bring economic prosperity.

Me and my colleagues, meanwhile, eyed all of that with suspicion. While none of us was dilligent enough to build a counter argument, we DID construct a sort-of guide to do so.

We started by pointing out that stock market indices are just that- indicators of that particular and specific market. It doesn’t say whether the gains would be reinvested, who would benefit from them… we can only be a little bit sure of who received them. What it does, is to simply say that a number of selected enterprises from different sectors are doing well in attracting investors from all around the world.

People can draw all types of conclusions they want, but the truth is, there is no evidence that stock market movements have affected development indicators* like poverty levels, enrollment rates, mortality rates, investment in infrastructure or quality of life. In our conclusions, we admitted that for the upper echelons of the society, the high indicators meant more sound and healthy economics for them, as they are stakeholders of that elite market.

As a side note, we observed something funny: most of this president’s supporters are comprised of poor to middle-class citizens with no ownership of any stock whatsoever. Yet, they were very celebratory of the rising stock market indices. Oh, the pathetic, deceived souls…

1.B

In an interview, Nicolas Maduro proudly announced that unlike in the 70’s, the current dictatorship in Venezuela does not have anything to do with the United States. He added that as a socialist country, the government is actually formed by Venezuelans. It has no contamination from evil capitalists, doesn’t risk being indebted to anybody… just hungry citizens, a huge black market of all sorts and human rights violations left and right, top to bottom, side by side, front and back.

Of course there are also the hordes of Venezuelans fleeing to Europe and the US (for those who were able to) with their assets and families, swearing never to return until democracy is fully reestablished. It’s creating, as we speak, a massive brain and investment drain in the country where talented and highly educated people escape for some pasture- which doesn’t have to be green as long as there’s something to graze on!

If not for the oil, every economic aspect of this deplorable country would be naught.

Absurd agenda 2: justifying the unjustifiable global inequality

Let me share a scene I witnessed in one of my college classes. I was seated with my then-best friend and this dialogue ocurred between her and a former Economic History professor:

Teacher: (noticing a book about Che Guevarra on our table) So, Ernesto Guevarra, huh?

Friend: Yes. It’s good to have varied sources of information.

T: Yes, sure. Whatever. But you do know that even if we free those Indonesian kids working in a Reebok factory, they won’t be cruising around Harvard in a Jaguar, right? You know they’d probably be worse off, right?

F: Sure, but we want them free NOT so they could cruise around in Jaguars or Bentleys. We want them freed so they could choose for themselves what they want to be and how they want to get there.

T: Oh, the youth! Anyway, class, today’s lesson…

My friend and I looked at each other and made faces. 

Economic prosperity, regardless of its magnitude, is inconceivable without the full exercise of basic human rights.

Absurd agenda 3: insistently promoting a lifestyle that really only benefits the few- and none of them is you

Think of the last thing you purchased, may it be a product or a service. Then, think how you could have continued to live your life without it. Try really hard. If you come to the conclusion that you could have gone through the day or the week without it, then you have just made the rich richer. And you, dear reader, are several monetary units poorer.

Now, the other side of the coin would allow us to analyze thus: look at the advertising material around. How many of the items proposed are truly vital for modern-day living? for me, the choices would include an insurance policy, the most competitively-priced natural gas package, the public safety reminders and maybe even adult diapers, among the few. The rest? very questionable.

We are forcefully being introduced to a kind of life whose prerequisite is for us to spend our time and energy to work a lot, earn a lot and buy a lot. To sacrifice our health and time with people we love and the things we like doing. It would seem as if society is pushing citizens to harvest the fruits of their efforts through spending and consuming.

This is not surprising. After all, private consumption has been the strongest driver of the OECD’s economies at one time or another. Taking this variable a notch higher could undoubtedly lift declining economic indices.

But just like what was mentioned in this article, it would be senseless to refuse or even condemn private consumption. It would however, be more fruitful to analyze our purpose for spending. This could help us exchange our hard-earned “moolah” on things that honestly make us happy, productive, humane, alive or whatever it is we want to feel, not what the ads or the influencers want us to feel…

If, at this point, your cost-benefit analysis comes out favorable, then I am happy for you. But if you’re in doubt, then I am also happy for that realization.

-The End-

 

*Please, please, please, PLEASE read this solid article from the fantastic Mahar Mangahas:  http://opinion.inquirer.net/55487/do-stock-prices-affect-the-poor

Questions people should ask the person they’re dating for the first time (a poem)

Author’s note: Guaranteed to make you stay single!

 

Just how big of a jerk are you?

Will you raise a hand on me?

Thinking I’m frail? and helpless?

How much of an asshole will you be?

When I outsmart you, would you

attack psychologically?

And when I retaliate,

would you call me crazy? then convince

the rest that I AM, actually?

What kind of an insecure person are you?

Will you belittle my triumphs?

Smirk on my ambitions?

How would you handle my success?

Are you someone dependable?

who wouldn’t be overpowered

when I am down? who won’t get upset

when I feel weak?

What WILL you do, when I DO feel weak?

Are you someone on whom I could lean? or

will you  throw me under the bus,

to end my ordeal?

What do you want, exactly?

And do you think you can handle me?

Honestly?

-Karessa Ramos